Save New Jersey's State Parks!

Just when you think New Jersey can’t get any worse, the Governor declares he will close nine of the most beloved vacation, historic and environmental centers in the state: New Jersey’s treasured State Parks.

New Jersey’s parks are oases of sanity in a state gone mad. Imagine: you can drive along “Cancer Alley” from Cape May to High Point and discover virtually untouched wilderness with easy accessibility for all of our people, people from diverse backgrounds, of all ages, physically fit or disabled.

Parks like High Point, where generations of children have learned to understand and cherish our environment, to protect wildlife and to explore the natural underpinnings of the natural world.

Parks like Round Valley where working people from diverse cultures bask in the summer sunshine, listen to popular music on the radio, and picnic with family and friends. It’s like being royalty for a day!

Parks like Jenny Jump, a tiny jewel of a park hidden high in the Warren County hills, glistening with fresh springs, offering breathtaking views of the Water Gap and juicy blackberries ripe for the plucking in July.

Our State Parks are the beating heart of New Jersey, the erstwhile “Garden State” which has turned into the butt of comedians’ jokes throughout the world. There is talk that these parks will remain open on a limited basis. That means access for affluent backpackers and amateur ecologists with $2,000 binoculars, GPS watches and Hammacher Schlemmer travel bags. On the other end of the scale, that means access for midnight beer parties, where carelessly flicked cigarettes could set ablaze thousands of acres, endangering the lives of people, animals, property and our dwindling natural environment.

What about the rest of our people, the 99 percent of New Jerseyans who want a safe, family-friendly environment to unwind, get away from polluted cities and enjoy the natural world that is every person’s inheritance? With skyrocketing gasoline prices, driving to another state may no longer be an option.

But even more than the fun, history, education and cheap or free vacation sites, New Jersey’s State Parks offer us a glimpse into the very meaning of existence. Who has not sat at the summit of a hill overlooking miles of greenscape and not experienced an “Aha!” moment? A moment in which all life seemed an endless song, full of common sense, meaning and deep feeling.

I think Gov. Corzine has been going to too many fancy parties with indigestible hors d’oeuvres, bitter cocktails, raucous chatter and overdressed guests.

I challenge him to spend a weekend walking through our State Parks, spying a scarlet cardinal in the branches overhead or a family of squirrels scampering across a well-kept path.

I urge him to open his ears and hear the wind soughing in the pines—a huge, inspiring sound!—and see flocks of geese so close overhead he can almost feel their soft feathers.

I encourage him to see families at play and children rediscovering real living, fresh air and exercise far from the nearest TV or computer screen.

We need more nature, not less. We need it for economic, social, historical and scientific reasons, but we also need it deep in our souls. Our children need it for the future, if there is to be a future.

There are other ways to save money. Sell some of the state property in Trenton. Work out of less ostentatious buildings. Bring government back to the people, on the people’s level. Share resources with colleges, universities and museums. There is no lack of resources, only of imagination.

But keep our State Parks open and free. Here is a rare chance to do something good for New Jersey and its people. Gov. Corzine, save the State Parks. Don’t let this opportunity slip away. It may never come our way again.

Posted on Friday, April 4, 2008 at 08:50AM by Registered CommenterLinda Brown Holt | Comments4 Comments