This past spring, citizens made clear that commercial timbering in state parks was not an acceptable solution for the parks’ maintenance backlog. Now, with a new legislative session on the horizon, people are thinking about alternative funding sources that could be used to preempt any more bad ideas from the legislature.
Recently, Robert Beanblossom, who worked for the DNR for over 40 years, penned an opinion piece for the Charleston Gazette-Mail on this very topic. His list of ideas for funding parks included allocating a small percentage of the revenue from the new internet sales tax to parks, adding a “pennies for parks” fee on plastic bags, and increasing parks’ share of money from state rebate cards. There are many other options, from a small increase in severance taxes to a state parks license plate and beyond.
One idea that is not likely to be popular is an entrance fee. In many areas of West Virginia the local state park may be the best (or only) option for safe, accessible outdoor recreation. Even if the fees weren’t high, it could still reduce park attendance for low income West Virginians, potentially cutting them off from all the great benefits our state parks offer.
We will be keeping a close eye on the legislative session beginning in January, and hope to see some positive parks bills this year. If there are opportunities for public involvement on this issue, we will be sure to announce them on our website.