May 19, 2010
Expected savings of $1 million will stave off further park closures
Changes take effect immediately
The New York State Office of Parks Recreation and Historic Preservation today implemented changes to its Access Pass program, which provides state residents with certain permanent disabilities free or reduced cost admission to recreational facilities operated by State Parks and the Department of Environmental Conservation. The changes are expected to save the state approximately $1 million annually and reduce the potential for abuse within the system.
"The original intent of the Access Pass program remains very important. However, the growth of the program well beyond what was authorized by law has had a significant financial impact on the park system," said State Parks Commissioner Carol Ash. "With the fiscal crisis forcing state parks closures and service cuts, the reform is necessary to prevent more drastic cuts to our facilities."
Under the revisions, two of eight Access Pass eligibility categories have been eliminated: the "semi-ambulatory" category and the category of individuals receiving federal Social Security Disability, Supplemental Security Income or Railroad Retirement Board Disability. These categories are not specified in the 1977 state law that authorized the Access Pass. Individuals who are blind, deaf, non-ambulatory, amputees, disabled veterans, or who have a mental disability will continue to be eligible for the program. Individuals who lose eligibility as part of these changes can reapply if eligible through the six remaining categories.
The changes will begin taking effect immediately. However, camping and cabin reservations made prior to this change will remain eligible for Access Pass refunds. More information on the rule changes can be found at www.nysparks.com.
Statewide, approximately 34,000 individuals hold an Access Pass and receive $3 million in waived fees and charges for use of state recreational facilities. Eliminating the two eligibility categories is expected to reduce the number of Access Pass holders by 65 percent, and increase state revenue by approximately $1 million. The revenue estimate is built into the 2010-11 fiscal year budget plan that already calls for closing and reduced operations at dozens of state parks and historic sites.
New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation oversees 178 state parks and 35 historic sites. For more information on any of these recreation areas, call 518-474-0456 or visit www.nysparks.com.