State Plans to Close Fort Ontario Historic Site

Fort Ontario

New York State would close Fort Ontario and 54 other state parks and historic sites to save money, under a plan released today.

The first Fort Ontario was built in Oswego in 1755.

Paul Lear, site manager, said he had been notified by the state Parks Department about the plan, but said he could not comment on it.  He referred comments to spokespeople for the state in Albany.

Locally, the state’s plans would also shut down public swimming at Selkirk Shores State Park, would close Chimney Bluffs state park near Wolcott and would close Springbrook Greens state golf course in Fair Haven.  The closings are part of the department’s plans to save money as part of the 2010-11 state budget, which is supposed to be approved by April 1 but which is usually late.

“It seems perennially that parks are looked at as a luxury,” said David Turner, director of the Oswego County Department of Community Development Tourism and Planning.  “But when I see families enjoying those parks, I know that they’re not luxuries at all.  They’re treasures.”

He said the county was disappointed with the news and that county legislators will consider a resolution next week expressing their displeasure, as the work begins behind the scenes to lobby on behalf of the parks.

Turner said closing Fort Ontario and ending swimming at Selkirk Shores would hurt the county’s ability to attract tourists, who may come primarily for fishing or Harborfest, but who want to know there are other things to do when they come.

State Assemblyman Will Barclay (R-Pulaski) quickly condemned the proposal.  In a statement, he said, “The potential closure of Fort Ontario as part of a cost-saving measure for the state is unacceptable and just another example of Albany’s mismanagement of taxpayer money. Rather than make real budget cuts to close the widening gap in the deficit, Albany has instead decided to close an important part of Central New York’s history.” His full statement is posted below.

Gov. David Paterson said in a statement released with the list of cuts:

“The unfortunate reality of closing an $8.2 billion deficit is that there is less money available for many worthy services and programs. In an environment when we have to cut funding to schools, hospitals, nursing homes, and social services, no area of State spending, including parks and historic sites, could be exempt from reductions. We cannot mortgage our State’s financial future through further gimmicks or avoidance behavior. Spending cuts, however difficult, are needed in order to put New York on the road to fiscal recovery. Going forward through the budget process, I look forward to a productive dialogue with the Legislature on parks and historic sites, as well as other issues.”


The Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation (OPRHP) today put forward a list of closures and service reductions in order to achieve its proposed 2010-11 agency savings target and help address the State’s historic fiscal difficulties. As part of a comprehensive plan to close an $8.2 billion deficit, the 2010-11 Executive Budget included necessary cost reductions to each executive State agency, as well as cuts to education, health care, social services, and every other area of State spending.

OPRHP’s plan includes the closure of 41 parks and 14 historic sites, and service reductions at 23 parks and 1 historic site.

The plan also assumes $4 million in park and historic site fee increases that will be identified at a later date, and the use of $5 million in funds from the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) to finance OPRHP operations. These two actions were part of the 21-day amendments to the Executive Budget and are intended to reduce the number of parks and historic sites subject to closures and service reductions.

Specific recommended closures and service reductions are detailed below:

Long Island

Brookhaven State Park Suffolk Close Park
Bethpage State Park Suffolk Eliminate Winter Sports;

Reduce picnic area and polo field

Caleb Smith State Park Preserve Suffolk Close Park
Cold Spring Harbor State Park Suffolk Close Park
Connetquot River State Park Suffolk Close Weekdays
Heckscher State Park Suffolk Close Swimming Pool
Jones Beach State Park Nassau Close West Swimming Pool;

Eliminate July 4th fireworks

Montauk Downs State Park Suffolk Close Swimming Pool
Nissequogue River State Park Suffolk Close Park
Orient Beach State Park Suffolk Close Park
Trail View State Park Suffolk Close Park

New York City Region

Bayswater Point State Park Queens Close Park
Riverbank State Park New York Reduce Operating Hours;
Close Outdoor Swimming Pool;
Eliminate Seniors Classes; andCommunity/Cultural Events

Palisades Region

Fort Montgomery Historic Site Orange Close Historic Site
Harriman SP– Anthony Wayne Orange Close Park Area
Harriman SP – Group Camps Orange Reduce Maintenance
High Tor State Park Rockland Close Pool
Knox Headquarters Historic Site Orange Close Historic Site
New Windsor Cantonment SHS Orange Close Historic Site
Schunnemunk State Park Orange Close Park
Stony Point State Historic Site Orange Close Historic Site
Tallman Mountain State Park Rockland Close Pool

Taconic Region

Donald J. Trump State Park Westchester Close Park
FDR (Roosevelt) State Park Westchester Reduce Swimming Pool Season
Hudson Highlands State Park Putnam Close Arden Point Area
James Baird State Park Dutchess Reduce Golf Course Season
Mills Norrie State Park Dutchess Reduce Golf Course Season
Olana State Historic Site Columbia Close 2 Days per Week
Philipse Manor Hall Historic Site Westchester Close Historic Site
Rockefeller State Park Preserve Westchester Eliminate Interpretive Programs
Taconic Outdoor Education Center Putnam Eliminate Interpretive Programs
Taconic State Park – Rudd Pond Dutchess Close Rudd Pond Area
Wonder Lake State Park Putnam Close Park

Saratoga-Capital Region

Bennington Battlefield State Park Rensselaer Close Historic Site
Hudson River Islands State Park Rensselaer Close Park
John Boyd Thacher State Park Albany Close Park
John Brown Farm Historic Site Essex Close Historic Site
Johnson Hall State Historic Site Fulton Close Historic Site
Max V. Shaul State Park Schoharie Close Park
Schodack Island State Park Rensselaer Close Park
Schoharie Crossing Historic Site Schoharie Close Historic Site
Schuyler Mansion Historic Site Albany Close Historic Site

Central Region

Chittenango Falls State Park Madison Close Park
Clark Reservation State Park Onondaga Close Park
Fort Ontario State Historic Site Oswego Close Historic Site
Helen McNitt State Park Madison Close Park
Herkimer Home Historic Site Herkimer Close Historic Site
Hunts Pond State Park Chenango Close Park
Oquaga Creek State Park Broome Close Park
Old Erie Canal State Park Onondaga Close Park
Oriskany Battlefield/Steuben SHS Oneida Close Historic Site
Pixley Falls State Park Oneida Close Park
Robert Riddell State Park Delaware Close Park
Selkirk Shores State Park Oswego Close Public Swimming Beach

Finger Lakes Region

Beechwood State Park Wayne Close Park
Bonavista State Park Seneca Close Park
Chimney Bluffs State Park Wayne Close Park
Newtown Battlefield State Park Chemung Close Park
Springbrook Greens State Park Cayuga Close Park
Two Rivers State Park Tioga Close Park
Buttermilk Falls State Park Tompkins Close Public Swimming Area
Seneca Lake State Park Seneca Close Lake Swimming Beach
Stony Brook State Park Steuben Close Public Swimming Area

Thousand Islands Region

Canoe Island State Park Jefferson Close Park
Cedar Island State Park Jefferson Close Park
Eel Weir State Park St. Lawrence Close Park
Keewaydin State Park Jefferson Close Park
Macomb Reservation State Park Clinton Close Park
Mary Island State Park Jefferson Close Park
Point Au Roche State Park Clinton Close Park
Sackets Harbor State Historic Site Jefferson Close Historic Site

Genesee Region

Hamlin Beach State Park Monroe Close Swimming Beach 3 Days per Week
Oak Orchard State Marine Park Orleans Close Park
Regionwide Multiple Eliminate Camper Recreation Program

Niagara Region

Joseph Davis State Park Niagara Close Park
Knox Farm State Park Erie Close Park
Niagara Falls State Park Niagara Reduce Interpretive Programs
Wilson-Tuscarora State Park Niagara Close Park
Woodlawn Beach State Park Erie Close Park

Allegany Region

Allegany State Park Cattaraugus Close Quaker Area Swim Beach;
Close Quaker Cabins Area on December 1st;
Eliminate Winter Trails Maintenance;
Reduce Recreation Programs
Long Point State Park Chautauqua Close Park

Barclay: Closing Fort Ontario Is Not the Answer to Closing the Budget Deficit

Assemblyman Will Barclay (R,C,I—Pulaski) today issued the following statement after learning that, due to reductions to the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historical Preservation (OPRHP) operation budget, 57 State Parks and Historic Sites, including Fort Ontario, have been listed for closure.

“The potential closure of Fort Ontario as part of a cost-saving measure for the state is unacceptable and just another example of Albany’s mismanagement of taxpayer money,” said Barclay. “Rather than make real budget cuts to close the widening gap in the deficit, Albany has instead decided to close an important part of Central New York’s history.”

Through a 21-Day Amendment to the executive budget, OPRHP has proposed an additional $5 million from the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) to help pay for operational costs at selected parks throughout the state. Unfortunately, Fort Ontario is not listed among the selected parks that would be eligible for the funds.

“Because of its historical significance, Fort Ontario is an important educational tool for our community and enhances tourism in Oswego County. I will fight to keep Fort Ontario open and will work to see it included in the $5 million for select state parks,” Barclay concluded.


  1. Why visit NY state if they won’t let you see it? Why not lay off some politicians to save money? They wouldn’t be as missed as the parks and historic sites.

  2. I agree with Jackie. I’m getting tired of Gov. Patterson’s suggestions. It just seems like he wants to take everything away from NYS. Holding tax returns will not be a popular suggestion either.

  3. I don’t feel that any state park should close. It is a short-term fix in stead of a long-term one. Having said that, I only see two parks in the NYC Region will be affected (and only one closed). Why so many closures upstate and so few downstate? It is apparent where Albany’s loyalties are… This needs to be fixed

  4. I am thunderstruck at the stupidity of the State. There is so much ‘wasteful spending’ in the government, I can’t imagine how they can justify the closure of something that actually generates money for the State! OMG, I can’t even imagine this…IS there no other way to close this gap?

    PLEASE elected officials get your legislative heads together and find another way! PLEASE!!!

    Deborah Engelke
    Small business owner, Oswego, NY

  5. This is rediculous! Look at all the people that will be out of jobs. Then these parks will get run down and eventually will be reopened and look at what it will cost to get them back in shape. I agree with previous comment to quit wasteful spending and let the extra politicians tighten their belts and stop offering free privileges to them. Many folks are staying close to home and watching their spending and now to take away the state parks………WRONG!!!!!!!

  6. rich people rarely go to state parks, polititions very rarely go to state parks, so, who does that leave? it leaves us stupid, dumb and ignorent poor citizens who can’t afford to go very far and are at the mercy of the people who were either elected or (appointed), like you governor. you and a number of your cronies won’t make it the next time around……………………..




    TO DO.”

  8. NY State officials should be ashamed of themselves wanting to close the attractions to our state. Cut back on top state officials paycheck and save our historic sites and parks, we have grown up with these and should be places for further generations to enjoy, after all it is a part of our heritage, having grown up in Fulton, NY before moving to Florida we enjoyed the weekends at these places and when I go home every year it is noce to revisit. Please find a way to keep these sites and parks open.

  9. Closing the Fort to loose the millions of already completed renovations is absolutely crazy. All of the other parks have a ton of employees — the Fort doesnt. How easy government forgets where we come from and how we got here. Maybe we could get someone whos national (Barcley) to STEP UP and get some national attention.


  10. I am trying this again– I agree with all the above comments. When my kids were growing up we used to go to the Fort to wander around and learn the history,look at all the weapons from the past, go through the dungeons to see if we could see the Forts ghost or hear him. Why are you going to rob future generations of these great lessons and history.
    If you charge a small entrance fee this would help pay the expenses of the Fort and all the other forts in the state. The state parks are used for family vacations and I know there is a charge for entrance to them. Where is that money going to? If the state wasn’t into spending every dime taken in for other things other than what it was intended for maybe there wouldn’t be a shortage– the lotto for schools?? the thruway charge for other things?? we can go down a long list of what money goes where but is eaten up by things that it isn’t intended for…like all the raises the politicians taking how about our “officials” who I am sure don’t need all the raises to put bread on their tables how about using that money to help out the state where it was intended to go in the 1st place

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  12. Is there some way that the state can give the park to the city? I know that the city of Oswego has a hard time running everything else in our town, but at least we wouldn’t lose one of our tourist destinations.
    We own the lighthouse, why not the cities other historical landmark?

  13. This is criminal. OK the Gov has our attention now. But our historical sites and parks are so important to the quality of life in New York State, there must be something else that can be done?

  14. These bums are so unimaginative. If any of us were to run our households like they run this state we’d be living in cardboard boxes. It’s time to get out the broom, and I hope that all remember that in the voting booth, or whatever they’ve spent our money on to replace it.

  15. aren’t we going to lose money by not collecting the fees that people pay to get into these parks and attractions in our state? people are still going to be able to access these facilities but now they wont have to pay for it and it wont be maintaned so not only will new york look worse but it will actually be worse. good job to our elected officials on this one.

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