“Pennies For Parks” initiative gains traction In New York State legislature

Albany, NY – July 11, 2012 – The beginning of the busy summer park season brings good news regarding the future of the Alliance for New York State Parks' “Pennies for Parks” initiative. The legislation creating a long-term funding source to restore and maintain the state’s aging state parks through a five-cent fee on carry-out grocery and retail bags has gained majority sponsorship in both the state Senate and Assembly.

The Alliance extends tremendous thanks to Senator Mark Grisanti (Niagara/Erie) and Assemblyman Kevin Cahill (Ulster/Dutchess) for their introduction of this important measure (S.6580/A.10343) in their respective chambers.

Our positive momentum stands in stark contrast to just a few short years ago when New York’s state parks were on the brink of disaster. Parks were slated for closure; hours cut back; services reduced; and the condition of park facilities continued to deteriorate. In response to the threat, New Yorkers stood up in support of state parks. Never in the state’s history was there such a loud and resounding outcry in support of New York’s beleaguered state parks. State legislators heard from their voices of their constituents and led the way to reopening the parks.
While that period was dark and difficult, today we recognize that those days of turmoil gave way to a renewed focus on our parks. Today, park attendance is up significantly and our elected officials are recognizing both the value and economic importance of state parks, as well as the $1 billion in repairs and upgrades needed throughout the system. 

Thanks to the leadership of Governor Andrew Cuomo and Commissioner Rose Harvey, an infusion of more than $100 million has sparked the effort to rebuild our dilapidated state parks. The Alliance celebrates this new investment, but also recognizes that a new, sustained commitment must be made to repair and properly maintain New York’s 178 state parks.

“Pennies for Parks” will establish a funding source to address the nearly billion dollar capital backlog at state parks, while taking aim at disposable, carry-out bags. Plastic bags are more than just an eyesore, they are a major source of pollution along roadways, washing up on beaches, blowing through parking lots and ending up caught in trees and harming wildlife.

Under “Pennies for Parks” shoppers who choose to make disposable, carry-out paper or plastic bags part of their shopping experience will face a five-cent per bag charge, with the proceeds going to repair and maintain parks. Shoppers who choose not to use these bags will avoid the charge completely. It will take time for New Yorkers to modify their shopping habits, but ultimately, usage will decline as shoppers look to avoid added cost.

Efforts to reduce bag usage are on the rise throughout the U.S. and around the world, many using the bag fee mechanism similar to “Pennies for Parks.” The Alliance continues to push for the enactment the bill. Again, thanks to Senator Grisanti and Assemblyman Cahill for leading the effort in the state legislature. With the bill’s introduction in the Senate and Assembly, we have achieved an important first step toward making “Pennies for Parks” a reality.

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