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We, the people, just want to fish

Scott Paulsen
| Friday, July 17, 2009

The state parks I loved as a child are dying.

The end has come in slow and embarrassing increments, caused by political posturing, finger pointing, budget reductions and a blind eye cast by those who think their voices don't count and their ideas are useless.

The shame of the dry lakebed that used to be the focal point of Ryerson Station State Park in Greene County is a reminder of how life works when we, the people, surrender control of our world to the guys in the suits.

The guys in the suits met five or so years ago, stood around staring at the cracks in the dam at Duke Lake, and decided on a two-point plan to save the world. First, they would drain the lake. Second on the agenda was finger-pointing.

My money (and yours) was spent on a study showing the dam's structural flaws were not caused by nature. The DEP stared down Consol Mining. The coal company (often portrayed as the evil villain), armed with maps, charts and engineers in tow, attempted to relieve itself of any responsibility.

Meanwhile, as the suits continue to argue, the lakebed (now known derisively as "Dryerson Lake") sits idly by, growing less functional and sinking deeper into the history of my childhood.

The same goes for Raccoon Creek State Park in Beaver County. Each summer we hike its trails and canoe on its waters, watching as upkeep and maintenance of the park becomes less frequent. Buildings deteriorate. Beaches are closed. The red tape that is state government figuratively grows in the trees that line the water.

We, the people, the ones who use these state parks year-round, are not all that interested in who gets the blame. What we're interested in is swimming. We want to fish.

Getting out of the house -- that's our big political agenda.

So what is the solution to poorly planned fiscal budgets, corporate finger-pointing and reduced staffs, each resulting in parks that are mere shadows of the beautiful recreation areas I remember from my childhood?

Private/public management?

Entrance fees?

Memberships?

Volunteerism?

I don't have a solution. I'm just a guy who likes to ride his motorcycle and paddle his canoe. What I do understand is this -- the people we placed in charge of our weekends, the guys in the suits (on both sides, politics and business) have allowed some parks to die. While many corporations and the constantly confused commonwealth of Pennsylvania fail to have the vision to see past the next quarter, the parks crumble, the lakes remain dry, the beaches remain closed.

Don't think we, the people, haven't noticed.

The state parks I loved as a child are dying.

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