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Visitors to America’s state parks are demanding more and more amenities, ranging from electrical hookups to wireless Internet service. But there are fewer resources available to provide these kinds of improvements because of competing budgetary priorities, said Phil McKnelly, executive director of the National Association of State Park Directors (NASPD).
McKnelly commented on the continuing budgetary challenges facing America’s state parks following NASPD’s annual meeting in mid-September in Blaine, Wash. The meeting, which featured roundtable discussions, educational seminars and a trade show, attracted state park officials from 46 states, he said.
State parks have made headlines in recent years, largely because of budgetary problems that have resulted in the temporary closure of campgrounds and, in some cases, entire parks. Officials claim the problems usually stem from competing priorities as legislators shift more and more of their states’ financial resources to other areas.
“Recreation is always on the minds of people, but it’s not the first thing listed as vital,” said Dan West, who serves as director of Ohio’s state park system.
The problem, West said, is that much of the infrastructure that was created for the nation’s state parks between the 1930s and the 1960s now needs to be replaced or improved, and there’s little revenue available to do it.
“One of the things we’re doing is looking at local entities taking over some of our state parks (in Ohio),” West said.
Privatization of state park campground operations is also a consideration. “We’re not saying we’re going to go that way,” he added. “We have not moved in that direction yet. But that’s certainly not to say that it isn’t possible.”
In other action, NASPD elected two new state park directors to serve on its rotating board of directors. They include Priscilla Geigis, director of Massachusetts State Parks and Recreation, and Doug Prchal, who serves as director of the North Dakota Parks and Recreation Department.
NASPD’s next annual meeting will take place in Wichita, Kan. in September, while the September 2007 meeting will be held in Jamestown, Va.