With 450,000 acres under management, the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) oversees a diverse portfolio of open space ranging from state parks, both day-use and campgrounds, fresh water and ocean beaches, swimming pools, forests, greenways, historic sites, scenic parkways, and bike paths.

Established in 1892, the park system initially grew in size, mission and funding over the decades. But overall, funding has not only failed to keep pace with growing need and demand, it has in fact been cut sharply during a time when demand for these vital resources has grown.

Since Fiscal Year 2001, with a budget of $149 million, DCR and its antecedent, the Department of Environmental Management, has lost more than half of its funding. The proposed budget for parks and recreation for the coming Fiscal Year 2019 is $86 million, representing a 57 percent cut since the turn of the century.

This has resulted in deep cuts to public services, staff and the ability to even maintain the vital resources over which DCR has jurisdiction. Capital needs go unmet, swimming pools close early or don’t open at all, campgrounds must rely on volunteers for routine maintenance, and forests go unmanaged for biodiversity while invasive species run rampant, crowding out native plants.

We can and must do better if we’re to leave a legacy of outdoor recreation and enjoyment for future generations. On these pages, you will see how you can help the Massachusetts Conservation Voters achieve this vision of a first-class parks and recreation experience in the 21st Century and beyond.