LAKE PLACID - The John Brown Farm State Historic Site is one of several parks in the region finally open after state officials agreed to restore their funding last week.
The site was one of 14 historic sites and 41 parks across the state Gov. David Paterson announced in February would be closing as of April 1.
The parks, which are all operated by the state Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation, were mostly in operation by last weekend, however, after the State Legislature approved a bill Paterson introduced to fund their operation.
The deal involved offsetting $11 million in parks funding with a $74 million cut to the state Environmental Protection Fund, a special fund set aside for environmental stewardship programs and state land acquisition. The bill also creates additional fees for businesses that create hazardous waste.
The vote on the bill was largely across party lines in both houses with all Republicans voting against it.
"I'm supportive of using environmental funds to keep our recreational facilities open, but I voted no on this bill because it's an issue that should be addressed as part of a complete budget," said State Sen. Betty Little. "The budget is now two months late, and obviously it's not only visitors of our parks that are frustrated."
Both Little and Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward have expressed support for keeping state parks open in the region, not only those operated by OPRHP, but also those run through the state Department of Environmental Conservation, some of which have also been targeted for closure.
"Parks make money for New York State and should not have been cut in the first place," said Sayward.
The John Brown Farm had originally been scheduled to open May 1 - Oct. 31, but its temporary removal from the yet-to-be-approved state budget kept the site unstaffed until May 29.
Brendan Mills, site manager at the John Brown Farm, said he was "glad to be open and doing our job."
According to Mills, about 60,000 people visit the site each year, though not all visitors take the tour of the farm buildings, for which there is a small fee. The grounds of the site are open year-round and are accessible at no cost.
Naj Wikoff is coordinator of John Brown Coming Home, a committee that organized events surrounding last year's 150th anniversary of Brown's death and burial. The organization co-sponsored a commemorative event at the farm May 8 that drew 100 people.
"We are greatly indebted to Senator Little and Assemblywoman Sayward along with the many, many people who sent in letters and emails to keep the John Brown Farm and other sites open," he said. "We are glad that this hallowed site will remain open, and we hope it will never be closed again."