It’s a sad state of affairs when you can’t even escape into nature for some respite from the bad economic news.

Last week, officials in New York began contacting people who had reservations to camp in state parks to tell them that the parks would be closed, according to the New York Times.

The state is facing historic financial woes and so has identified 41 state parks and 14 historic sites that it plans to close to save some dough.

It would be the first time the state has had to close parks due to budget problems — a low that was avoid even during the Great Depression.

There’s no word yet on whether the campground closings are the extent of the problem or the parks will be completely shut to visitors.

The state parks and recreation department posted a list of the parks and sites the government proposes closing. The announcement comes on the heels of a $20 million cut to the parks budget by New York Governor David Paterson.

Outdoor Alliance, a coalition of human-powered outdoor recreation organizations, is urging people to contact state legislators and Governor Paterson to voice support for keeping the parks funded and open. OA notes that studies “clearly illustrate that the economic benefits produced by state parks greatly exceed the costs of maintaining them.”

There also are the matters of quality of life, piece of mind and the simple freedom to get away from the stresses of civilization to consider. What kind of government can’t provide its citizens with access to nature?

The American naturalist, John Muir, a pioneer of wilderness protection, once urged that people “keep close to Nature’s heart…and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods.”

“Wash your spirit clean,” he said.

One has to believe that Muir would have thought New York’s plan to lock up the soul soap — particularly in hard times — really stinks.

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