Budget cuts curtail programs
AL ZAGOFSKY/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS In June 2009, environmental educator Carissa Longo (to the left of the stand) leads group to view bats living near the covered bridge at Beltzville State Park, as part of a bat count.
In response to cuts in the Pennsylvania State budget, Beltzville State Park has announced a "restructuring" of its Environmental Education Program.
By "restructuring," the Bureau of State Parks means it has eliminated the seasonal position of an environmental educator at the park.
In a memo, Robert G. Neitz, regional program coordinator at the Pennsylvania Bureau of State Parks, Region 4 Office wrote, "Due to the current economic conditions of our state and subsequent budget, DCNR and the Bureau of State Parks have been looking at restructuring how and where we focus our programming.
"As a result of this restructuring, Beltzville State Park will not have an employee that is solely dedicated to programming at the park. This does not mean programming will be completely lost."
The memo further notes, "The exact details … have not been worked out at this point."
For many years, the position of environmental education program coordinator was staffed by Carissa Reilly-Longo. Longo had attracted wide swaths of the community to programs on the fossil heritage uncovered during the creation of Beltzville Lake, a census of the bat population during these times when large numbers are dying from white-nose syndrome, and a class in how to compost household wastes.
When first notified of the cuts in the fall of 2009, Longo said, "I'd really like to have my job. I really like to do environmental education and continue with my summer camps and be here for my normal season."
She had been active in summer camp programs at Beltzville, family programming, and maintenance of the environmental center. Last year, due to cuts in the DCNR budget for state parks, her season was shortened.
According to the memo, Longo will "continue to work for PA State Parks and will offer a few summer camp programs at Beltzville.
Other educators from surrounding parks and within the bureau will also offer some programming at the park throughout the year."
Pennsylvania instituted cuts in its 2010-2011 budget that affect not only state parks, with 35 parks, including: Tobyhanna, Gouldsboro and Big Pocono parks slated for closure, but also museums and historical sites - the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission laid off over one-third of its staff.
The memo directs people to check the calendar of events at http://www.dcnr.state.pa.us/Calendar/list.asp, for up-to-date information on all the education and recreation opportunities in state parks. Currently, no activities are listed at Beltzville State Park.