States Slash Cash, And Tourism Revenue, By Closing State Parks

Last Updated Mar 15, 2010 11:51 AM EDT

Several states are attempting to save money by closing their state parks, but instead they're killing off their tourism dollars. California leads the state in the most state park closures, with 60 part-time closures and reduced services at 90 of the state's 278 parks. New York is preparing to close 41 parks and 14 historic sites and Arizona will closed 21 of its 30 parks. Virginia was going to shutter five parks but decided to cut money in other ways, saying they were "a necessity."

They are a necessity. Tourism is a state's lifeblood, especially for a well-known coastal state (and in Arizona's case, a world-famous national park.) While a state park may not be a Yellowstone or Yosemite, it usually is more of a regional draw for its recreational possibilities and enjoyment. But when states raise entry fees and cut hours, they are killing off more dollars than they are saving.

While California is in financial difficulties, many sites under the California Parks and Recreation Department include some of the state's most picturesque beaches and campsites. But speaking as a California native and a former state park seasonal employee, I have seen state parks thriving, and within only a few years, seen entry fees jump 500% (from $3 in 2001 to $15 in 2010 -- yes, $15) pricing out working-class families who used the park most while also offering less services, staff and amenities that wouldn't attract more exclusive customers. (This is aside from the fact that closing a park doesn't mean it will cost nothing to the people of California. Instead, there will be poachers, arsonists, taggers and drug dealers growing marijuana plantations overrunning the parks without supervision. Wildfires, drug cartels and endangered animals hunted to extinction -- doesn't that sound great?!)

So perhaps instead of expensive spots featuring celebrities promoting the state, that money could instead go to parks being run on a shoestring? I know it's not going to happen, but sometimes -- once a year -- I like to be an optimist.

Photo: ms4jah
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