Fee hike may affect state park

Discussion in 'The Camp Fire' started by Toxic, Feb 9, 2009.

  1. Toxic

    Toxic Defensor Fortis

    With all the job losses, lets kick the taxpayers in the nuts when the times are the worst.


    In summer or winter, retiree Bob Craig jogs along the winding roads at Mosquito Lake State Park.

    "You need to keep active," he said about trotting along the snow-packed road.

    And he plans to keep active every week, much in the same way assistant park manager Mike Grammer plans to, even though he's not sure what the state budget problems could mean for the park.

    "We've never been in a fiscal environment like we have now. Nobody has. We don't know what to expect," Grammer said.

    One thing the park should be free from are fee increases, which could hit other services with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

    "There will be no fees for the state parks, so they can remain open and free to all Ohioans," said Cristie Wilt of ODNR.

    Fees proposed by the state last week could affect other people's outdoor experiences, however. The proposal contains Department of Health license fee increases for private campgrounds, an extra few dollars for non-motorized watercraft such as canoes and kayaks, and increases for certain non-Ohio residents during hunting season.

    Grammer and park managers for West Branch and Lake Milton state parks recently submitted their budget requests to the ODNR. The three asked for a combined $2 million, which Grammer said was the same request they submitted last year. Grammer said the park's financial fate for the year won't be decided until meeting in Columbus on Feb. 25.

    About 53.5 million people visited Ohio parks in 2007, according to the ODNR.

    Now, according to reports from The Associated Press, cuts could be on the way to the state park system. In a worst-case budget scenario, Gov. Ted Strickland could close state parks.

    Ohio faces a $7.3 billion deficit in the next two years based on current tax revenue projections. If the federal government does not step forward, state agencies would need to cut 25 percent off their current funding levels just to preserve Medicaid, a tax reduction and continuing to make debt payments.

    Grammer said the park already is cutting back.

    "Hours (cutbacks) have been happening consistently. For a long time now, we've cut back on hours to balance things out," Grammer said.

    But anything beyond that depends on the outcome of that budget meeting.

    "We know we'll get some cuts,'' he said. ''How that will trickle down to the park level is difficult to know.''

    Beth Ruth, communications director for ODNR, said she could not speculate what form the cuts could take. Grammer said any fees for the park itself have to be approved one year in advance of them taking effect.

    "The only thing we have direct control over are T-shirts, milk and bread (we sell)," he said.

    One fee increase to the ODNR would be a license fee increase of $5 when an Ohio resident registers a non-motor boat for three years. One-year registrations would have an extra fee of $1.50. The money would go into the ODNR's Scenic Rivers Program, which protects and revitalizes the state streams. Motorboats already pay a vehicle fuel tax, said Division of Watercraft Chief Pamela Dillon.

    "Non-motorized is 25 percent (of the registrations),'' she said. ''This would even the playing field between those two user groups.''

    If enacted, the charges could generate $162,000 in new revenue for the state.

    Hunters from out of the state who own hunting ground in Ohio could pay out-of-state fees for the first time under the proposals, according to Tony Celebrezze, the deputy director of Recreation and Resource Management in Fish and Wildlife. These hunters could have to pay $124 to hunt, which could create $330,000 for the Wildlife Fund.

    "Currently, the way the wording is in (Ohio law), if you own any piece of land big or small in the state, you could qualify for a resident tag,'' he said.

    ''There's only eight states left, including Ohio, that treats residents and non-residents alike. Our contention is that the state residents should be enjoying the benefit of a lower license fee.''

    The Department of Health has some proposals that could tie into Ohioans' outdoor recreation. The fee proposal includes licensing fee increases depending on the number of lots in the campgrounds. Campground inspection fees and plan reviews are also expected to go up, but the camping fees will be directed to private campgrounds, not one owned by the state, according to Wilt.

    Costs should remain about the same for Ohioans visiting their state parks.

    When asked about the cuts, Craig seemed optimistic about his favorite jogging spot. He said he wasn't worried about what could happen to the park because of the state's budget problems.

    "As long as they can still keep the geese away," he said about the animals that chased after him during one afternoon run.
  2. stormfront

    stormfront Guest

    we camp pymatuning, and whereas the rates continue to increase, the care and quality of the park has gone down. grammer came from pymatuning and i am sure he is well aware. continued increases will eventually drive us completely away. already a lot of the seasonal and regular weekend campers have already left.