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OHIO Cash-hungry ODNR seeks fees to park in state parks



Published: Fri, January 7, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Ohio is among the few states that don't charge.

COLUMBUS (AP) -- Visitors would have to pay parking fees for Ohio state parks starting in May if lawmakers approve rules to be proposed Friday by the Department of Natural Resources.

Ohio is among just a handful of states, including neighboring Kentucky and Pennsylvania, that don't charge for hiking, picnicking or most other day uses of parks. But Pennsylvania parks on Wednesday announced that some services would be reduced and parts of facilities closed because of tight finances.

The Ohio proposal

Under the Ohio proposal, residents would pay $5 daily per vehicle, or buy a $25 annual pass that can be transferred among family vehicles. Seniors with Golden Buckeye cards could get discounted passes for $4 daily or $20 annually. Out-of-state residents would pay $6 or $30.

Most of the money would be used for maintenance at the park where it's collected, while the rest would go to a statewide fund for operations and repairs at all 74 state parks, the DNR said. The system now charges only for overnight camping, boat dock rentals and contracts with concessionaires.

The department will submit the request to a legislative committee that reviews all agency rules and has 90 days to make a decision.

Support shrank

State support has shrunk while expenses went up, DNR Director Sam Speck said. There were 490 full-time parks workers last year, down 22 percent from 607 in 2000. Also, state budget cuts ended the Civilian Conservation Corps, which built several special projects.

Raising existing fees and coordinating with volunteer groups hasn't been enough to make up the difference. Without a new revenue source, parks will be less clean, staff less available and roads and grounds less well-kept, Speck told The Associated Press.




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