Funding Sought for Open Space Statewide, Including on Cape

Cape-Cod-DunesABOSTON – Over 20,000 Bay Staters have signed a petition in favor of funding the Land and Water Conservation Fund, a federal program that distributes money to states for use on recreational areas, including the Cape Cod National Seashore.

Recently, a Congressional committee voted to slash the agency’s budget significantly and the program could be abolished in 2015.

The petition has been forwarded to the state’s congressional delegation.

Advocates say the Fund is the country’s most successful parks and open space program that helps protect beaches, forests, and local parks and playgrounds in Massachusetts and across the nation.

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Parks on Cape Cod that have received LWCF funding include Crowes Pasture and Scusset Beach.

Recently, a Congressional committee voted to slash funding to the Land and Conservation Water Fund to one-sixth its intended level, leaving, advocates say, some of Massachusetts’ best places vulnerable to pollution and development, and with fewer resources to maintain park facilities.

Besides, the Cape Cod National Seashore, other parks supported by the fund include Boston Common and  the Appalachian Trail.

“Our parks are a big part of what makes living in Massachusetts so great,” said Ben Hellerstein, field organizer for Environment Massachusetts. “For 50 years, the Land and Water Conservation Fund has protected our most treasured landscapes and provided essential support for local parks and neighborhood playgrounds across the state. Our message is clear: Bay Staters want to see their parks protected.”

Since 1965, the Land and Water Conservation Fund has contributed more than $200 million to protect parks and open space in Massachusetts with dedicated revenue from offshore oil and gas drilling. But Congress has routinely raided the fund to send that money elsewhere, according to Hellerstein.

Last year, the LWCF received only $306 million in funding, and the House Appropriations Committee recently passed a bill that would fund the program at $152 million for the upcoming year.

Depletion of open space is an issue in the commonwealth.

According to a recent report from MassAudubon, Massachusetts lost approximately 38,000 acres of forest and undeveloped land between 2005 and 2013—equivalent to 13 acres a day.

Youth programs are also affected.

“As a youth development organization that connects inner-city children and teenagers from all parts of Boston with opportunities to experience the great outdoors, we understand the importance of protecting our parks and public lands,” said Bryan Van Dorpe, executive director of Youth Enrichment Services. “From Bash Bish Falls in the Berkshires to the banks of the Charles River, Massachusetts’ parks help people of all ages and backgrounds to develop healthy habits, learn valuable life skills, and gain an appreciation for the beauty of our natural environment.”

In Massachusetts, outdoor recreation generates $10 billion in economic activity every year and supports 90,000 jobs.

“Today, with 20,800 of our fellow Bay Staters behind us, we’re asking our members of Congress to do everything in their power to ensure that the Land and Water Conservation Fund is fully funded, next year and forever,” said Hellerstein.

Land and Water Conservation Fund has provided funding to hundreds of local, state, and national parks across Massachusetts to help preserve our natural heritage, protect against excessive development, and provide more recreational opportunities.

Local and state parks that were funded by the LWCF in Barnstable County between 1968 and 2009 include Crowes Pasture in Dennis for $38,875; Hawksnest State Park in Harwich for $170,250; Scusset Beach in Sandwich for $472,450; Great Pond acquisition in Eastham for $118,000; Sandy Neck acquisition as part of Sandy Neck Beach Park, $61,200; Ryder and Briar Patch in Sandwich for $772,017; South Cape Beach in Mashpee $2,037,000;

Also Scargo Lake in Dennis for $25,000; Bourne Marina for $674,310; Cronin Property acquisition in Truro for $54,000; The Gut in Wellfleet for $23,141; Mashpee River Corridor for $312,820; Castiglioni Property at Spruce Hill in Brewster for $250,000; Dewire property in Truro for $200,000; Al-Said property in Orleans for $360,000; Fishing Deck at Bass River (Smuggler’s) Beach in Yarmouth for $45,785;

Also Whistle Woods Path in Provincetown for $250,000; Aschettino Property in Eastham for $250,000; Sheep Pond Woodlands in Brewster for $250,000; and Sparrow Property (Kenrick Woods) in Orleans for $300,697.