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State Lawmakers Eye Plan To Keep Fort Open

(EDITOR’S NOTE) Things may be back to square one.

The Assembly has reportedly voted down the governor’s bill to borrow $6 million from the Environmental Protection Fund to facilitate the parks’ reopening.

The governor wanted to transfer the money, contingent upon lawmakers’ agreement with his proposal to cut the fund.

“There is no free lunch. If legislators want to fully fund the parks, that money must come from a real source,” Gov. Paterson said in a prepared statement.

Original story below:

OSWEGO, NY – A bombardment of calls and emails to state lawmakers appears to have had a positive impact.

Save Fort Ontario“Significant action” was seen in the Assembly regarding the possibility of reopening Fort Ontario as well as several other state parks and historic sites that have fallen victim this spring to the state’s budget morass.

According to Assemblyman Will Barclay, Monday’s “Significant action” was the result of the grassroots efforts from across the state by people fighting for their parks and historic sites.

Assemblyman Steve Engelbright, chair of the Assembly’s Tourism, Parks, Arts and Sports Development Committee and Sen. Jose Serrano, chair of the Senate’s Tourism, Parks and Recreation Committee, introduced Monday’s legislation.

If approved, it would ensure parks and historic sites were afforded the same hours of operation and public services as in last season.

“All of Fort Ontario’s supporters eagerly anticipate the re-opening of the fort. If the legislation to fund the historic sites and parks is passed, we are most concerned with getting the Post Cemetery prepared for Memorial Day services by the veterans and public who come to pay their respects on our nation’s most solemn holiday,” said Paul Lear, historic site director.

He didn’t comment on whether the fort would be ready for the annual Memorial Day and Flag Day programs if the legislation passes.

“The post cemetery contains the graves of 77 men, women, and children who served our nation at Fort Ontario from 1759 – 1943; it is for their sacrifices and in their honor that we wish for speedy passage of the bill to fund the historic sites and parks,” he continued.

The sign on the gate at Fort Ontario tells the story -- closed for the season, or, at least until state lawmakers come up with a budget that funds state parks.
The sign on the gate at Fort Ontario tells the story -- closed for the season, or, at least until state lawmakers come up with a budget that funds state parks.

The legislation to reopen Fort Ontario needs the public’s help, according to the Friends of Fort Ontario.

A note on their website reads: Below are links to bills proposed in the Legislature.  We need to make sure all Senators and Assemblymen vote in favor of these bills.  With enough votes, they can override the Governor’s veto.  Please CALL, WRITE, EMAIL, not just your local representative but ALL representatives in the state.

List of senators can be found at http://www.nysenate.gov/senators .  Assemblymen at http://assembly.state.ny.us/mem/?sh=email

They urge the public to let the state lawmakers know that the people support Senate Bill S07776 and Assembly Bill A11013.

At Monday night’s Oswego Common Council meeting, First Ward Councilor Connie Cosemento also encouraged the public to keep up the pressure on the state lawmakers.

“I would suggest you use the Oswego County Government Director booklet to find the all the contact numbers, emails addresses, telephone numbers for Sen. (Darrell) Aubertine and Assemblyman Barclay,” she pointed out. “Tell them to support the legislation to reopen Fort Ontario.”

People can also contact their county legislators for this information.