Rockland County Executive hopeful and Suffern Mayor Dagan Lacorte said Wednesday the county’s financial situation impacts its ability to maintain the 3,100-acre park system and steps need to be taken to preserve it. He proposed a six point system for the 28-park system which has a value of $230 million.
Lacorte's plan included:
- Form a Parks Conservancy, a permanent endowment for county parks that would raise $1 million in private funds within four years with the county responsible for its administrative costs.
- Consolidate the Division of Environmental Resources with the planning and transportation departments to create a Department of Environmental Responsibility and Transportation.
- Create a nine-member Rockland Parks, Preservation and Environmental Stewardship Commission instead of the current 42 members of four different boards. The boards are the Historical Preservation Board, Agricultural and Farmland Protection Board, Environmental Management Council and Parks Commission.
- Reallocate $100,000 of Parks Department senior management salaries to park maintenance and equipment.
- Request non-residents using the county park system make voluntary contributions for park maintenance and pay a $2 non-resident parking fee of $2. He set a goal of $25,000 for the first year with the funds going to park maintenance and equipment.
- Seek sponsors for trail maps and signage to raise revenue.
"Our parks are critical to our suburban way of life. To make Rockland proud again, we need well maintained and safe parks for hiking, walking dogs and playing with our kids and grandchildren, said Lacorte, a Democrat. “Only a fiscally stable county government can safeguard our natural resources, including our 28 county parks."
Lacorte criticized officials for spending more on the operation of the county legislature, almost $5.7 million compared to $2 million on the parks system.
He stated a review of 2010 through 2013 budgets showed a 55 percent cut to environmental programs from $51,654 to $23,000 since 2010 and no funds were provided for equipment since 2011. He noted an environmental staff funding reduction of 13 percent since 2010 from $1,856,235 to $1,622,880 and that 25 percent of the department’s budget covers salaries for two employees. Lacorte pointed out the department’s budget equals one-quarter of one percent of the total county budget.
Others seeking the office of county executive include Democrats Legislator Ilan Schoenberger, former Spring Valley Justice David Fried and Vladimir Leon and Republican Legislator Ed Day.