ODNR PROPOSES PARKING PASSES AT OHIO’S 74 STATE PARKS|
Parks Pride Pass to help restore and maintain Ohio’s award-winning park system
COLUMBUS, OH - Beginning in May, visitors to Ohio State Parks will be required to display Parks Pride Passes on their motor vehicles, under rules proposed today by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR).
The rules, filed with the legislature’s Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review (JCARR), will allow Ohio State Parks to collect $5 for each daily parking pass. An annual pass, good for unlimited park visits for 12 months from the date of purchase, will cost $25. JCARR will have 90 days to review and approve the proposed rules. If the rules are approved, Ohio will become the 45th state to enact a user fee in its park system.
Out-of-state visitors will pay $6 daily or $30 annually per vehicle for a pass. Golden Buckeye Card holders will receive a discount ($4 daily/$20 annual). A majority of monies generated from the sale of passes will be returned to the park where they are collected. The balance will go into a special fund to support day-to-day operations and maintenance in all 74 state parks.
“By displaying Parks Pride Passes, visitors will show their personal support for Ohio’s award-winning state park system,” said ODNR Director Sam Speck. “It is their way of saying: ‘We appreciate the value Ohio State Parks offer and we want to help protect, restore and maintain our parks for families today and into the future.’”
Introduction of the Parks Pride Pass marks a milestone in the 56-year history of Ohio State Parks. While general revenue funds and user fees generated from camping, boat dock rentals and concessionaire contracts have traditionally supported the cost of operating the state parks, those sources are no longer sufficient to ensure the standard of excellence for which Ohio State Parks are known, according to Speck.
“Continued reductions will place our wonderful state park heritage at risk and threaten the reputation of our parks as wholesome, family-oriented destinations,” he said.
Faced with increasingly difficult budget challenges and cutbacks in state funding over the last five years, the park system has responded with significant reductions in staffing, maintenance and visitor services. For example, Ohio State Parks employed 607 full-time staff members in 2000, but cut that number to 490 employees in 2004. Only 42 of the system’s 74 parks now have on-site managers.
“In recent years, more and more of the state’s budget has been allocated to Ohio’s other needs. Meanwhile, despite staff reductions and other belt-tightening, the costs associated with maintaining and operating state park facilities have steadily increased. The Parks Pride Pass will help fill that gap, ensuring that Ohio families will continue to enjoy the level of service they have come to know in their state parks,” Speck said.
Because each of Ohio’s state parks is unique in character and layout, administration of the Parks Pride Pass will vary from facility to facility. At the busiest locations, park staff will have passes available for motorists as they enter designated parking areas. At less-busy parks and times, motorists will use an “honor system” drop box to obtain a pass. Parking passes will not be necessary for walk-in visitors.
Annual passes may be purchased at most Ohio State Park offices, campgrounds and lodges and at selected retail locations within individual parks.
Ohio State Parks will hold a public hearing at 1 p.m. on Saturday, February 12, at the Ohio Historical Center, Interstate 71 and 17th Ave., in Columbus to accept public comment on the proposed rules.
Ohio State Parks are the third most-visited state park system in the country. Only California and New York average more visitors each year to their state parks. In 1997, Ohio State Parks became the first state park system to receive the Gold Medal for Excellence from the National Recreation and Park Association as the top state park system in the country.