|01-07-2005, 09:51 PM||#1|
Join Date: May 2004
Location: Grove City, Ohio
Proposed "User Fees" for State Parks
Here is an article that I found on nbc4i.com about officials proposing user fees for Ohio's state parks. Personally, I thought that's why we pay State taxes. My next thought was that I do a lot of boating in the summer, so are they going to charge us extra for our boat trailers? anyway, here's the article.
Officials Propose First Parking Fees For State Parks
Residents Would Pay $5 Per Vehicle
POSTED: 6:00 pm EST January 6, 2005
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Visitors would have to pay parking fees for Ohio state parks starting in May if lawmakers approve rules to be proposed Friday by the Department of Natural Resources.
Ohio is among just a handful of states, including neighboring Kentucky and Pennsylvania, that don't charge for hiking, picnicking or most other day uses of parks. But Pennsylvania parks on Wednesday announced that some services would be reduced and parts of facilities closed because of tight finances.
Under the Ohio proposal, residents would pay $5 daily per vehicle, or buy a $25 annual pass that can be transferred among family vehicles. Seniors with Golden Buckeye cards could get discounted passes for $4 daily or $20 annually. Out-of-state residents would pay $6 or $30.
Most of the money would be used for maintenance at the park where it's collected, while the rest wold go to a statewide fund for operations and repairs at all 74 state parks, the DNR said. The system now charges only for overnight camping, boat dock rentals and contracts with concessionaires.
The department will submit the request to a legislative committee that reviews all agency rules and has 90 days to make a decision.
State support has shrunk while expenses went up, DNR Director Sam Speck said. There were 490 full-time parks workers last year, down 22 percent from 607 in 2000. Also, state budget cuts ended the Civilian Conservation Corps, which built several special projects.
Raising existing fees and coordinating with volunteer groups hasn't been enough to make up the difference. Without a new revenue source, parks will be less clean, staff less available and roads and grounds less well-kept, Speck told The Associated Press.
"We simply are reaching a point where we're not going to be able to provide the level of service that people have enjoyed and come to expect," Speck said. "If that experience is hurt and is further eroded, then the loss could be catastrophic."
Gov. Bob Taft supports the proposal as a way to keep and improve services in a tight budget, spokesman Orest Holubec said.
New Ohio Senate President Bill Harris said he's torn by the proposal.
"The fact we're one of the few states that don't charge parking fees is good for the people," the Ashland Republican said. "But I also realize if our parks are not maintained, constituents will be on the phone to us real fast complaining, and rightfully so."
Karen Tabor, spokeswoman for House Speaker Jon Husted of Kettering, said lawmakers will want to explore all options.
The Ohio Environmental Council recognizes that finances are "desperate," spokesman Jack Shaner said.
"We may reluctantly support an entrance fee. However, what we really should be exploring is a dedicated revenue source," Shaner said, such as an additional sales tax on camping or other outdoor equipment. He added he was concerned that lawmakers might again reduce state funding by the amount any such fees raise.
Fee collection would vary from park to park. Workers would distribute passes at the busiest parks, while the least busy likely would have an honor system, the department said. Pedestrians and bicyclists won't be charged, and the pass won't be required at other DNR facilities such as state forests and nature preserves.
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.