POINT AU ROCHE - The recent announcement by Gov. David A. Paterson's office to potentially close Point au Roche State Park, along with 41 other parks and 14 historic sites, has left many people in the North Country in a state of disbelief.
Paterson and state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation Commissioner Carol Ash released a statement Feb. 19 which states the parks and historic sites would be closed, with others receiving service reductions, in order to address the states "fiscal difficulties."
"New York faces an historic fiscal crisis of unprecedented magnitude," Paterson remarked. "It has demanded many difficult but necessary decisions to help ensure the fiscal integrity of our state."
He added in order to close the current $8.2 billion deficit, "no area of state spending, including parks and historic sites, could be exempt from reductions."
Ash added the decision was "not recommended lightly, but they are necessary to address our state's extraordinary fiscal difficulties."
However, the state's decision has left some unanswered questions among members of the Friends of Point au Roche State Park.
"Are they just going to close down the park," asked organization president Mary Simmers. "I'm concerned. What does it mean they're going to close us down? The park police aren't going to be there?"
"What's going to happen to the buildings," she added. "I just keep thinking one thing after another."
When Simmers learned Point au Roche was on the potential closure list, she said she felt "disbelief."
"That they could be so foolish," she said. "You might liken it a little bit to there's a foreclosure on your block and what does that do to the quality of life and your property values and where you live and so forth and so on. It takes away from everybody."
In hopes of keeping the closure from becoming reality, Simmers is urging everyone to make contact with senators, state assembly members, the commissioner and governor.
Aaron Roml-Morillon is also hoping people will do the same. Roml-Morillon, a native of Plattsburgh who currently lives in Montreal, began a Facebook page immediately upon hearing of Point au Roche being on the closure list. He originally began it to notify his friends and family of what was happening, but soon word spread.
Having begun the Facebook page "Save Point-au-Roche!" Feb. 19, around 8:30 p.m., it only took about a half-hour for the group to reach nearly 70 people, most of which he didn't know.
"I was like 'Oh wow, this is becoming something,'" he said.
As of Feb. 24, at 10 a.m., just five days later, the number hit 4,400 people, with many people leaving comments about what the park means to them, and how it needs to be saved.
"I'm glad I was able to give a sort of spark to it," Roml-Morillon said. "The kind of excitement and care people have for this is really going to carry us through."
He frequented the park as a child and said he has "a lot of great memories there."
"I personally ... felt it was one of the strongest assets that Beekmantown and the North Country in general have when it came to accessing nature," Roml-Morillon explained.
"When you go to this park ... you really see instantly how the quality of life for people is multiplied greatly by just the existence of having this park and the opportunity to be in nature and kind of experiencing what really is important about this area," he added.
Although Roml-Morillon had originally hoped the Facebook page would simply be a place for people to share their memories and photos of the park, he now sees it as a forum for people to potentially do something publically to keep the park open.
"Some march to save the park or some rally or something like that," he explained. "I think it'll give us the tools to rapidly let everyone know what's going on."
For more information, or to discuss the potential closure of Point au Roche State Park, Simmers can be contacted by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.