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Challenges Begin to Governor Romney's Park Policies
Park System Underfunded
Kathy Abbott Leaves DCR
From: Friends of the Middlesex Fells

Romney Underfunds Park System

Dear Friends,

On February 4, citing poor performance in parkway snow removal operations, governor Romney demanded that Commissioner Kathy Abbott resign as head of the Department of Conservation and Recreation. He said that she had adequate resources to do the job and failed to do her job properly.

But what he did next clearly showed that he didn't believe his own story. On February the 5th Romney ordered the MA Highway Department to take over plowing operations on selected parkways. If DCR indeed had adequate resources why didn't the governor just order the agency to do the job?

And why didn't Romney order a full investigation to uncover the real reasons for poor snow removal operations along the parkways?

Why indeed!

Such an investigation would point directly at the governor, who has presided over a steep drop in funding for our park system. Since 2001 the budget for DCR has been slashed an additional 37%. The environmental share of the total MA budget in 2005 was the lowest in memory.

A thorough investigation would reveal this scandalous fact: Currently the state of Massachusetts spends a mere .69 (a fraction of a penny) out of each budget dollar on the environment. This places the Commonwealth near the bottom -- number 48 out of the 50 states -- in environmental spending as a proportion of the total state budget.

In the Middlesex Fells we see first hand what this means. There is no management plan, vandalism is rampant, paint balls litter some trails, bikes and motorized vehicles destroy hiking trails at will. One ranger, citing lack of personnel, remarked that the Fell is like the "wild west." Lack of staffing means there are serious public safety issues in the Fells and in all parks and campgrounds.

When Romney appointed Commissioner Abbott to her post a year and a half ago he boasted he was creating a "world class park system" (see the DCR website). The Commissioner traveled across the state connecting with Friends groups. As a former park ranger and head of the Harbor Alliance she had decades of experience and offered vision and ideas for restoring our park system, a vision she shared with Fells region citizens at a forum in Melrose on January 22nd.

But the governor would not fund this vision, and now he has removed a most effective park manager.

And we will see him attempt to use the issue to ram through his special project: to commercialize the parkways by turning them over to MA Highway Department.

These policies are wrong.

Here is how a citizen who lives in the Mystic River watershed recalls Abbott's dedication:

"A few personal observations...Kathy Abbott is a rare politician, one that took personal responsibility for her actions and those of her subordinates. But it wasn't her actions that caused the VFW parkway not to be plowed. I remember meeting Kathy at a meeting of the Cambridge Pedestrian and Bicyclist Committee when she first took the reins of the new DCR. I observed her interactions with the committee and thought that she was a keeper. One of the concerns of the group was the plowing of Memorial Drive sidewalks so that the people of Cambridge could bike and walk. Her reply was that she only had 2 sidewalk plows for all the former MDC roads and she couldn't get any money to buy more plows.

Kathy Abbott "got it". She understood the needs of the people of the Mystic River watershed and while she couldn't make a silk purse from a sows ear she did return phone calls, she did attend meetings, she did TRY and she did care. The loss of Kathy Abbott will not be felt any deeper than here in the Mystic Watershed.

This snowstorm was one of the top 5 in the last century. If the practice of firing those responsible for unplowed sidewalks continues there won't be a DPW Director in Eastern Massachusetts with a job. Kathy wasn't fired because the sidewalks of the VFW Parkway were unplowed. I wonder what the real reason is?"

Throughout the Commonwealth Park advocates are outraged at Commissioner Abbott's dismissal.

Since the governor shows no interest in uncovering the real story behind this, legislators have called a public hearing at 1pm this Friday, February 11th in Room 222 at the statehouse.

There is much we can do:

Let the governor, legislators, the Environmental Affairs secretary and the press know that Romney was wrong to dismiss Abbott, is wrong to under fund our park and parkway system and wrong to push for the MA Highway Department bureaucracy to take over our historic parkways.

Email, copy emails and send as letters, and call:

Thank you,
Mike Ryan
Executive Director
Friends of the Middlesex Fells Reservation

The Friends of the Middlesex Fells Reservation     4 Woodland Rd Stoneham MA 02180     781-662-2340

Added to website February 10, 2005