Lost in the seemingly endless analysis of the daily stock market gyrations and an economy in, or soon to be in, recession is the lingering impact of high fuel costs on the nation’s state and federal parks.
Glacier National Park and Yellowstone National Park both saw slumps in the number of visitors this year. State parks are also under pressure. Although visitor numbers at most state parks has been strong, funding is under pressure due to a reduction in state tax revenues due to depressed real estate valuations.
In January, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed a budget that would close 48 state parks. Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich is proposing the closure of 11 state parks. Other states are proposing fee increases in an effort to make up projected budget shortfalls.
The sad truth is that when it comes to money, recreation is often one of the first budgets to get squeezed. Costs are up across the board and that means big-ticket items like education and public safety also need more money.
So what’s a happy camper to do? Be sure to keep in touch with your elected representatives at both the state and federal level. These folks rarely hear from “regular” people, so a pleasant letter highlighting your concern over state or federal park funding tends to leave a lasting impression.