FREDERICK, MD. -- Ed Kraushaar fears that if the state leaves Gambrill State Park closed for six months, his good neighbor will become a nuisance.
Trash will pile up, and people, including troublemakers, will have the run of the woods that surround the homes of 75 families, he said.
Gambrill, in Frederick County, is one of about a dozen parks the Maryland Department of Natural Resources has closed for at least six months because of budget cuts.
More than 3,500 residents have signed "Save Our Parks" petitions being circulated from western Maryland to the Eastern Shore. Others are writing personal letters to Gov. William Donald Schaefer.
About 20 people staged a demonstration in Easton last week to call attention to the closing of Tuckahoe State Park in Caroline County.
Residents near New Germany State Park in Garrett County and Janes Island in Somerset County are worried about the economic impact of the closings.
A Washington County bird-watching group that tracks the migration of hawks for environmental agencies is lamenting the closing of Washington Monument State Park and its rugged stone tower. Every day the group watches the skies there for hawks.
Meanwhile, state park employees are being transferred to parks that remain open. Workers are boarding up some park buildings, removing signs and moving equipment to other parks. "We have tremendous shortages in manpower and equipment all over the state," said Rick Barton, of the Maryland Forest Park and Wildlife Service. "This is just the latest in a long series of cuts."
Barton, director of the state forests and parks division, said the state asked his division in December to trim $600,000 from its budget. The park closings account for $178,000, he said.
The state tentatively plans to begin reopening the parks July 1.
Other parks affected include Dan's Mountain in Allegany County, Gathland in Washington and Frederick counties, Cedarville in Prince George's and Charles counties, Calvert Cliffs in Calvert County, Morgan Run and the McKeldin recreational area at Patapsco Valley in Carroll County and Susquehanna in Harford County. New Germany in Garrett County will remain open until March for winter sports and then will close at least until June 30.
Kraushaar and some of his neighbors decided they wouldn't wait until summer to find out if Gambrill will reopen.
If the state can provide at least one law enforcement officer at Gambrill, the residents say, they will work to keep the park open.
"We'll mow grass, clean bathrooms, pull weeds, take the trash, help the campers -- whatever it takes to keep the park open," said Kraushaar, spokesman for the Gambrill Community Watch Association.
Officials from the Forest, Park and Wildlife Service said they will consider the proposal.
The park service announced in November that parks would be closed for three months this winter. This month, the park service said some would not reopen for six months. Soon after, Tom Williams, of Bethesda, organized a group to circulate the petitions. He plans to present them to state officials in a few weeks.