Breaking news: Nixon’s administration working with Dooley on potential strategies to preserve county parks

Gov. Jay Nixon announced today — Nov. 16 — that his administration has begun discussions with St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley about the potential for joint state-county management of some county parks otherwise slated to close.

On Oct. 31, county officials reported that budget constraints could lead to the closure of 23 county parks, including popular Lone Elk Park in West County. Since that announcement, Nixon’s administration has reached out to Dooley and his team to discuss the possibility of joint operations to preserve at least some of those parks, according to a news release issued by Nixon’s office. Lone Elk Park, for instance, is adjacent to Castlewood State Park, so joint state-county operation of the park could result in real cost savings for taxpayers, while ensuring that the park remains open.

“Whether they’re county, state or national parks, America’s outdoor spaces are jewels to be treasured,” Nixon stated in the release. “I’m extremely proud of our outstanding network of 85 state parks and historic sites that preserve and share Missouri’s natural and cultural resources.

“County and local parks are also invaluable assets that make Missouri communities wonderful places to live, work and raise a family. I am committed to working with County Executive Dooley and his team to explore ways we can help keep some of these parks open for Missourians. In these challenging times, we must continue to work together to make sure Missourians can enjoy the natural beauty of our state.”

“My strong desire is to protect these beautiful parks for our residents, but the current financial reality has forced us to consider some very difficult possibilities,” Dooley stated in the release. “I appreciate Gov. Nixon’s willingness to work with us to identify strategies to keep these parks up and running. We are committed to continuing to work with him to identify the best path forward.”

An overflow crowd jammed the County Council Chamber Tuesday night during a public hearing on the county’s proposed 2012 budget.

The vast majority of the 60 speakers who addressed Dooley and the Council County voiced their opposition to the closing of any county parks. They also opposed proposed layoffs of county Parks and Recreation Department employees.

Look for the full story in next week’s Call.