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Maine state parks free Sunday June 20
The state is allowing Maine residents the chance to visit any state park on Sunday free of charge, according to WCSH6.
It is the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands Maine Day. One of those parks that will offer free admission is Fort Knox in Prospect. It is one of forty-eight state parks that span across Maine from Kittery to Fort Kent. Maine Day is a way for the state to say thank you to people who support those parks.
“It’s also to make people aware of our 75th anniversary,” Mike Leighton of the Bureau of Parks and Lands said. “It’s not every day you have a 75th anniversary and we’re pretty proud of it, to have the state park system around that length of time.”
According to the Bureau of Parks and Lands, 2.3 million people visited state parks last year. For a complete list of Maine state parks and special events scheduled to celebrate the park systems 75th anniversary, click here.
Kentucky to privatize some state park services
Trying to stave off financial losses within Kentucky’s state park system, officials said they are seeking to privatize some of the services they provide.
Tourism Secretary Marcheta Sparrow said the operation of state golf courses and selected restaurants is being turned over to private companies, which could open the way for alcoholic beverages to be sold for the first time on park property.
Sparrow said the state is issuing “requests for proposals” from interested companies.
Among other changes announced, seasonal workers will be hired through temporary agencies, winter operations will be cut back at most locations and all employees who currently work 40 hours a week will be cut back to 37.5 hours.
Consultants said the changes could save the state about $6 million a year. No parks would close under the plan.
Gov. Steve Beshear, who called the state’s parks “important economic catalysts,” has approved the plan.
Kentucky has 51 state parks and historical sites that generate $53 million in revenues, the third highest amount in the nation behind only California and New York. The revenue, however, covered only about two-thirds of the operating expenses.
Indiana-based PROS Consulting LLC reviewed the state park system’s business operations and recommended numerous changes, including the implementation of admission fees. Sparrow said that recommendation was rejected.
“This plan, based on the most comprehensive study ever conducted of the park system, not only is the first step toward getting the system’s financial house in order, but also provides a road map to bring our parks into the 21st century,” Sparrow said.
The consultants examined park facilities, services, finances, work force, amenities, and management structure in making their recommendations.
Oklahoma to consolidate 9 state parks
The Oklahoma Tourism & Recreation Department, Division of State Parks, has announces consolidation of nine state park facilities in northeastern Oklahoma into a new Grand Lake State Park.
Bernice, Cherokee, Disney, Honey Creek, Little Blue, and Twin Bridges State Parks, as well as Spring River Canoe Trails on Grand Lake will now be called Grand Lake State Park.
Grand Cherokee Golf Course, Snowdale State Park on Lake Hudson, and Spavinaw State Park below the spillway on Spavinaw Lake are also included in the merger and will be managed under Grand Lake State Park.
“This consolidation is a positive step on several levels,” said Hardy Watkins, executive director, Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department. “It allows us to take advantage of the strong, well-known Grand Lake brand, combine resources of all smaller facilities which results in cost savings of approximately $130,000 a year, and continue to maintain all public access points to the lake.”
Park areas will keep their current name, but eventually signage will be changed out to reflect the unified Grand Lake State Park name. For example, instead of Bernice State Park, visitors will now know this as the Bernice Area at Grand Lake State Park. Combined revenue for these nine areas in 2009 was $649,084 with a total attendance of 557,689 visitors.
N.C. state parks squeezed by cuts
As campers, boaters and hikers fan out across the state this summer, Myrtle Beach Sun News reports the N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation has fewer resources to serve them.
The newspaper says litter won’t always be picked up as quickly as park superintendents would like, maintenance projects are being deferred, and fewer seasonal workers are being hired.
As legislators work to close an $800 million revenue shortfall by haggling over cuts to education and Medicaid, the newspaper says state parks might seem like an afterthought. But outdoors enthusiasts made a record 14.2 million visits to state parks in 2009, a 13 percent increase over the previous year. If the weather holds, park officials expect similar crowds this year. In welcoming them, the park system is stretching every dollar.
The system, which includes 34 state parks, four state recreation areas, and a system of natural areas, usually hires about 700 seasonal employees to help with routine tasks during the busy summer months. This year, there will be fewer than 400. And, among full-time staff, there are nearly 70 vacant positions.
The state has been aggressive in recent years in bringing land into the park system, with six new state parks authorized since 2003. Grandfather Mountain and Chimney Rock state parks, two of the state’s best-known natural attractions, are new since 2005.
The state purchased Grandfather Mountain for $12 million, split equally between the Parks and Recreation and Natural Heritage Trust Funds. Both funds receive their money from the deed-transfer tax.
The system works with other agencies as much as possible when it comes to purchasing land. The Nature Conservancy helped acquire the land for Carvers Creek State Park in Cumberland County, for instance.
As parkland increased, so did visitors. Ledford credits several factors for the higher attendance, including the poor economy, which has led more families to stick closer to home for vacations. Improved park facilities and a growing population have also brought more visitors, he said.
An economic impact study of 14 parks from 2008 concluded each non-local park visitor spent $23.56 daily for such things as campground fees, gasoline, and lunches outside the park. The economic impact the state receives from park visitors provides a good return on the investment, he said.
North Carolina trails nearly all other states in park spending per resident. According to the National Association of State Park Directors, North Carolina spent $4.18 per person on parks in 2008, ranking 45th nationally. Delaware was No. 1, spending $26.50 per person; Texas was last, at $3.58.
New RV Sites Coming to Grand Canyon National Park
Grand Canyon National Park will undergo some big changes beginning in July. A design/build project to construct six new RV sites and associated infrastructure will take place on the North Rim of the park and will provide housing opportunities for seasonal employees and their families, according to about.com.
The project will also include the demolition of six external frame cabins and will expand the National Park Service employee trailer court and upgrade the existing infrastructure, including utilities, and access roads. Funds for the project were made available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 which gave $10 million to Grand Canyon National Park.
Out in the woods, or in the city … it’s all the same to me. When I’m drivin’ free the world’s my home—when I’m mobile!
—Pete Townshend, The Who
Decide to make the most of each moment! Visit a park today!
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