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The growing maintenance backlog facing many of the nation’s state park systems was a key topic of discussion during a recent meeting of the National Association of State Park Directors (NASPD) in St. Louis.
“The participants expressed quite a bit of concern about the decrease in funding and how it’s resulting in a deterioration of facilities and a general lack of maintenance,” said Dan West, Ohio’s state parks director. “The movement is toward less general fund revenues and less capital funds. That’s the trend nationwide.”
Phil McKnelly, NASPD’s executive director, added that the budget cuts are affecting everything from restroom and campground maintenance to the quality of campground roads, all of which can affect the visitor’s experience.
“The budget cuts are resulting in the increasing use of seasonal as opposed to year-round employees,” he said. “This results in insufficient maintenance because a lot of the maintenance that used to be done by permanent employees during the off season doesn’t get done.”
The funding shortfalls, West added, are taking place at a time when the general public is increasingly using state parks and demanding more services.
“Everybody seems to want more improvements,” he said. “They want new facilities, flush toilets with shower houses.”
One possible solution, West said, is public-private partnerships. Ohio state parks have established relationships with more than 40 nonprofit “friends groups,” which provide a variety of support services to neighboring state parks.
He said local businesses and nationally known companies also are doing their part to support Ohio’s parks.