From the Record:
New Jersey needs more money to save open space, maintain its parks, and support hunting and fishing, officials and environmental activists told state legislators Monday.
At a hearing to set the Legislature’s environmental agenda for the coming year, money woes were at the top of list for many speakers.
Neighboring states “are investing in their parks and they’re getting our tourism dollars,” Tom Gilmore, president of the New Jersey Audubon Society, told the state Environment Committee in Trenton. “If we’re going to have world-class parks and keep our ecotourism dollars here, then we’re going to have to invest in that.”
The state faces a quarter-billion-dollar backlog in capital and maintenance projects at state parks.
New Jersey voters approved $200 million in borrowing in November to replenish the Garden State Preservation Trust, the state’s fund for conserving open space, farms and historic sites. But that money is expected to run out by 2010.
Conservation groups would like the state to dedicate $325 million a year — some from annual revenues, some from borrowing — to land acquisition, the park system and wildlife programs, said Joanna Wolaver, Audubon’s policy director.
There are signs that tax-weary voters are getting tired of paying more, even for normally popular open-space programs, warned state Sen. Jeff Van Drew, a Cape May Democrat. Last November’s referendum passed, but the vote was closer than in the past, he said.
“People are tapped out and they are taxed out and they are tired,” Van Drew said.