Analysis of press coverage of Parks' draft report
(EDITOR’S NOTE: The following are excerpts based on a Google News search. Use of bold or bold italics was added.)
June 18 — Manchester Union Leader: Twenty-seven state parks have been slated for potential sale or give-away”… The parks could be considered for sale, lease, transfer or outright give-away through a variety of options outlined in the division's draft strategic capital improvement plan. It covers planning for the next 10 years…"What we are saying here is they don't meet the intent of the state park system," said Johanna Lyons, planning and development specialist for the Division of Parks and Recreation…
Two public information sessions are scheduled. One is today in Portsmouth at the Wentworth-Coolidge Mansion State Historic Site, 375 Little Harbor Road, from 4 to 7 p.m. The final one is scheduled for June 23 at Peterborough Town Hall from 4 to 7 p.m. …"It was a tough job," Austin said of the strategic plan. Next up, he said, is to decide what needs to be done with the properties on the list and to work to see who may assume them.
June 19 — Associated Press (in Nashua Telegraph): CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — State officials have identified 27 New Hampshire parks slated for potential sale or lease that they say don't meet the intent of the parks system… The state park's draft ten-year development plan is available on the state parks website, www.nhstateparks.org/planning-development/development-plan.aspx
June 19 — Portsmouth Herald: The 10-year Draft Strategic Plan is scheduled to be finalized in September… "The question is do we put more emphasis on those that are on-mission, then debate whether we should spend money to get more (parks on-mission). Then, the thing that is sort of causing the most commotion, is we've got a lot of parks that don't make any sense and we have to decide what to do with them," said Austin. "Our challenge will be to tighten the list."
June 22 — Concord Monitor: A draft strategic plan released by the Division of Parks and Recreation earlier this month…Nearly all of the 26 properties on the list are properties that don't meet the intent of the state parks system, Lyons said.
June 22 — Keene Sentinel: The draft, which can be viewed online, hails New Hampshire's parks as its “crown jewels.” But it decries the weaknesses of a self-funded system plagued by ...
June 23 — The Wire: … the N.H. Division of Parks and Recreation released a draft... Selling the properties to private developers is a possibility, but it’s not the preferred one. “That’s really not our intent,” said Johanna Lyons, planning and development specialist for Parks and Recreation. “We’re wide open right now to any ideas.”… Lyons said Jenness Beach fails to meet at least two of those criteria. Compared to other New Hampshire beaches, she said, it’s not particularly unusual. Also, with other beaches nearby, Jenness may not be necessary to the park system. The same could be said of North Hampton State Beach, she added… Other C-listed properties could be handed over to municipalities or sold to non-profit organizations for $1, with stipulations that they must be maintained as open space. The range of possibilities is extensive. “We can do whatever we want,” Lyons said.
June 29 — Nashua Telegraph editorial: The draft strategic plan was released June 8… The report uses the bureaucratic euphemism “alternative management strategy” as a way to describe the process of unloading the 26 so-called “Category C” locations…Not mentioned in the report, but clearly a possibility, is the open market sale of some properties to private interests.
July 2—Rye Reflections: Rye Crisp— The Rye Board of Selectmen has moved quickly to pass a motion stating that "the Town of Rye is interested in re-acquiring Jenness State Beach." The June 29 action came on the heels of the New Hampshire Division of Parks and Recreation issuing a draft of its Ten-Year Strategic and Capital Improvement Plan calling for possible decommissioning, transfer, lease or disposal through the state's surplus land process of 27 properties in the state park system. New Castle Saltines-- In early June the NH State Division of Parks and Recreation released the draft of a strategic plan for development that has generated much concern and uncertainty. One problem was a long lag between release of the plan and when most people became aware of it via news reporting, after the scheduled public hearings had gone by. David Borden Report — The "Draft Strategic Plan" creates three categories of parks.
July 7 — Portsmouth Herald: It now appears the state has no intention of divesting itself of North Hampton State Park, Jenness Beach in Rye, or any other state park listed in a Division of Parks and Recreation's Draft Ten-Year Strategic and Capital Improvement Plan…"Based on substantial public feedback, I have decided to withdraw the first draft of the Division of Parks and Recreation's Ten-Year Strategic plan," said Department of Resources and Economic Development (DRED) Commissioner George Bald in a press release issued Thursday evening. "There was an impression in this draft plan that a potential strategy would be to divest ourselves of properties. This was never the intent of this methodology," Bald wrote. "The division, in cooperation with the State Park Systems Advisory Council, will present a more comprehensive draft plan that makes that clear." Bald is backing off statements made in a draft state plan.
July 13 — Keene Sentinel: The State Park System Advisory … meets Thursday to discuss the public’s reaction to a recent draft of the report.
A FOOTNOTE OF INTEREST—Priscilla Jenness, chair of the Rye Board of Selectmen, is noted for her precision with words. When she opened the June 29 meeting at which the board voted to express interest in reacquiring Jenness State Beach, she used the expression “up for grabs”. Meanwhile, Ted Austin, the Parks and Recreation Director, wrote the following to Rye Reflections roughly in the same time period as reported in Saltines:
"I emphasize the word DRAFT, because the reaction has been absurd to a presumptuous media headline of 'up for grabs' and has resulted in everyone assuming that parks are to be recklessly sold or closed. As you will see in the plan, those words do not appear anywhere, nor is that the intention." The "New Castle Saltines" column continued, pointing out that the report does include language that mentions the possibility of selling, where on p. 23 it states for Category C sites that "disposal through the state's surplus land process" is one of the strategies that will be considered. Austin went on to add that there is: "the need to think globally (about the current decrepit and under-funded state and future potential) of the entire park system and then begin to act locally (generate creative solutions to parks that are not currently getting the attention they deserve)."
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