Drop in visits to state parks creates budget pressure

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Visits to the state parks in Vermont are down by as much as 25 percent this year, a drop that the parks department blames on the cool, wet weather that has dominated the summer. State Park budgets are derived from user fees, and there’s been talk about raising those fees to make up the shortfall.

The parks took in $150,000 less than last year during a seven-week beginning July 1. And last year was considered a poor year for park usage. The State Parks division is considering going to the Legislature’s Administrative rules Committee for a fee increase this fall.

But Representative Maureen Dakin of Colchester, who chairs that committee, says it’s an issue that ought to go before the Legislature in full. And Natural Resources Secretary Elizabeth McClain is open to a discussion of restructuring the way recreational facilities are budgeted. She said relying on user fees is not going to support the level of service that the state wants to provide.

User fees in the form of hunting and fishing licenses have also declined recently, putting a strain on the Fish and Wildlife Department’s budget as well.

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