By: Morgan Reitzel, Follow South Jersey Intern
SOUTH JERSEY – A joint letter was written to Governor Phil Murphy by 21 major state conservation organizations to request that Governor Murphy add a great amount of funding from his budget towards restoring New Jersey state park systems with the Fix our Parks Campaign. State Park systems are important to the state’s economy and jobs system while having safe and accessible public lands. .
According to the NJ Conservation Foundation, the request is the last chance to influence the budget. Moreover, state parks and other areas have been neglected throughout the years with inappropriate budget cuts, protection plans not being enforced, and destructive activities such as dumping trash which undermine the ecological health of the wildlife areas. Without the budget change, there will be a continuation of the open spaces suffering, lack of staff, natural and historic resources being at risk of being lost, and illegal off-road use and illegal dumping.
Some specific campaign goals are to enforce fines and penalties for unlawful behavior, give more authority to the superintendents to complete projects, partner with volunteers to have a regional or state-wide organization for New Jersey state parks and forest areas, and advocate for more funding to monitor the land. .
“The Fix Our Parks Campaign is advocating for an increase to the state budget from $16 million annually for park operations and law enforcement, to $52 million annually, on par with the national average; and to increase capital spending by $40 million annually, to $60 million annually, to end the $600 million dollar maintenance backlog in ten years by 2033,” the South Jersey Land and Water Trust website states.
The Fix Our Parks Campaign expresses that their hopes for the future include that the NJDEP can establish better management plans for habitat restoration, minor trail bridges, etc and use the existing workers to issue fines to help with the offset growing cost. Additionally, they are hoping for more volunteers to help restore the lands.
The Fix Our Parks Campaign is asking residents of New Jersey to attend the online meeting to fund the parks on Tuesday, April 25 at 10:00 a.m. The public may view the hearing via the New Jersey Legislature homepage: https://www.njleg.state.nj.us/.
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