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Thursday, July 29, 2004 03:18 am

George loves parks


See George. See George in our national parks. George knows that parks are popular. George likes to go to parks and have the media take his picture. See George run for president.

In his 2000 presidential run, George W. dressed up in khakis and held a photo op in a national park, where he decried the $5 billion backlog in making essential repairs to America's deteriorating park system. It's shameful, he said, and he promised to fix our parks. He didn't. Four years later, the maintenance need is $6 billion.

Speaking of deterioration, Bush's National Park Service announced this February that it would allow BNP Petroleum Corp. to drill for natural gas on the Padre Island National Seashore. This will put pipelines, heavy equipment, and large trucks on the longest undeveloped beach in America. It will hurt tourism, the ecosystem, wildlife, and local businesses -- all so one oil corporation can plunder a minor gas deposit that amounts to just one day's worth of fuel.

Then there's George's effort to "improve" Eisenhower Public Park in Nassau County, N.Y. Though it's a mere county park, the White House directed county officials to make an essential addition to Eisenhower Park before Bush's visit there in March. He was going for a fundraiser in a restaurant in the park; then he was to walk to a building to meet with some families of 9/11 victims, then proceed to a groundbreaking ceremony for a 9/11 memorial.

The new addition demanded by Bush's minions? Sidewalks along every step of Bush's trek. Newsday columnist Jimmy Breslin reports that the word came down from on high: "The president's feet are not to touch the dirt."

Therefore concrete and asphalt were poured so that George's feet would not touch the ground -- as they rarely have any time in his life.

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