Americans love their parks, but don’t want to pay for them

By Pete Zimowsky, McClatchy Newspapers
Posted April 11, 2012, at 3:28 p.m.

When you walk into an outhouse at a picnic site or campground, one of the first things you notice is that the toilet paper is padlocked.

What kind of society puts a padlock on its toilet paper?

One on a tight budget, I guess. TP is a valuable commodity when you’re in the boonies.

You get to wondering about things like that when you’re sitting in an outhouse. You also might wonder about the large budget cuts that national parks, national forests and state parks are facing.

Americans are so lucky to have millions of acres of public lands and beautiful recreation sites.

Yet I’ve got a gut feeling that there is a growing attitude to not fund our natural resources and all the amenities that go with them for future generations — our kids and grandkids.

State parks are hurting in California, Washington and Idaho. “Save Our Parks” bumper stickers are popping up. These are special places, yet there isn’t enough funding to maintain them.

On a recent trip across the Northwest to the coast, I saw that some state parks were closed. And in the ones that were open, the entrance booths were not staffed.

Most of the work was being done by volunteer hosts.

Imagine if nobody wanted to spend the money to acquire and maintain Idaho’s Ponderosa State Park on the peninsula in Payette Lake at McCall? Imagine if it had turned out to be a peninsula of condos?

Past generations paid for the acquisition and upkeep of our natural wonders. Why don’t some members of this generation want to contribute in the same way?

Visitors to this country are amazed by our natural resources. Many Americans take them for granted. It baffles me how the budget for Idaho’s state parks has been cut so drastically. In the previous two budget cycles, Idaho state parks lost 80 percent of general funds, or taxpayer support. The operating budget of Washington state parks was cut by more than 70 percent.

I’m a taxpayer and I want my taxes going to state parks. State parks are an investment in the state’s economy. Overnight visitors to the state parks contribute $37.6 million to Idaho’s economy, according to the state’s Department of Commerce. Out-of-state day-use park visitors contribute $7.6 million annually. That’s a total of $45 million dollars to local businesses and communities throughout the state. People aren’t going to spend money in the state if parks and other natural areas are closed or in disrepair.

State parks are suffering through budget cuts and I’m one outdoors person and taxpayer who doesn’t like it. It’s a sad commentary on the American people that they don’t want to take care of their natural areas. It goes deeper than a padlock on the toilet paper.

Idaho state parks will get some support, and I’m glad to hear it. Beginning Jan. 1, 2013, you’ll be able to purchase a $10 Idaho State Parks Passport sticker at the time you renew your vehicle registration.

This is a great deal because it gets you into all 30 of Idaho’s state parks. Without a pass, each time you enter a state park in a motor vehicle you have to pay $5.

To obtain your pass next year, you’ll just have to “opt in” at the time of your license plate renewal, either by mail, online or at any county Department of Motor Vehicles office.

You’ll be contributing to Idaho state parks for future generations. The money will help preserve 49 campgrounds, hundreds of miles of hiking, riding and skiing trails, boat launches and historic and cultural sites in state parks.

©2012 The Idaho Statesman (Boise, Idaho)

http://bangordailynews.com/2012/04/11/outdoors/americans-love-their-parks-but-dont-want-to-pay-for-them/ printed on October 1, 2014