MIFFLINBURG - Nearly 200 people came to Raymond B. Winter State Park last Sunday afternoon to show support for the park, threatened with closure under a state Senate budget proposal.
While many of those who attended were local, some came from as far as Lancaster, Washington, D.C., and even Fort Leavenworth, Kan.
Joseph Fischer, a Northumberland County native who teaches at the U.S. Army's Command and General Staff College at Leavenworth, said he planned his annual trip to Pennsylvania to coincide with the rally at the Union County park.
"I grew up in Sunbury," he said. "I used to come up here as a kid. I can't think of a better reason to make a trip to Pennsylvania."
Many of those who attended the rally learned about it from Facebook, a popular social networking site on the World Wide Web.
When asked by Steve Connolley of White Deer Township one of the organizers of Sunday's event, how they learned about it, many people waiting to sign a list replied that they saw it on Facebook or received e-mail from friends.
Connolley reported nearly 200 people signed the list by the end of the afternoon, and he pronounced himself very pleased with the turnout.
"It was a sort of neighborly, local thing," he said. "People brought cookies and banana bread to share."
Several hundred dollars in unsolicited donations will be given to the park, he said.
People are genuinely upset by the prospect of the park closing, he said. Several people wondered what would happen to campground reservations made after July 1.
Raymond B. Winter State Park, which drew 140,000 visitors in 2008, is one of 48 parks and picnic areas identified for possible closure by the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, which faces a budget cut in the 2009-2010 spending plan.
DCNR developed the list after state Senate Republicans said they wanted to trim $26 million from DCNR's $120 million budget as part of their $27.3 billion budget proposal.
Gov. Ed Rendell in February offered a $29 billion spending plan that mixed program cuts with new or increased taxes. Last week, citing plummeting revenue collections and the rising cost of social services, Rendell called for a 16 percent increase in the state personal income tax. The increase, which would be the biggest boost in the tax rate in 18 years, would expire after three years.
"Both sides have chosen extreme positions," Connolley said of the maneuvering of the governor and the state Legislature. "There's a lot of distance between them. We don't want either side to use our parks as a pawn."
David Bressi of Elysburg developed a page on Facebook titled "Save R.B. Winter State Park," and after less than two weeks, more than 4,600 people have "friended" the park on the Web site. Many of those who visited the Web site live outside the Valley and signed on to convey their feelings about the park.