I find it odd that while numerous states are reporting state park attendance is up during the recession many parks are getting the ax to shave a few dollars off the state deficit. Something else I see as odd is while state park attendance increases many state budgets to fund the parks continue to decrease, and that some of the most beautiful and historical state parks in the country are closing altogether.

State Parks around the country are closing and state officials are claiming these closures will help fix their already broken budgets. That sounds crazy to me. In my opinion, the end result will more likely be hurting the local economies, dilapidated buildings and grounds, increased vandalism and most important the areas of this country that deserve the most protection and preservation are falling to the wayside. What’s next, to start developing state land and parks into urban community developments to try and fix a broken states economy?

Theodore Roosevelt, one of the greatest conservationists in American history, would be disgusted with many of today’s caretakers of our natural resources. These quotes from Teddy Roosevelt sum it up.

“We have fallen heirs to the most glorious heritage a people ever received, and each one must do his part if we wish to show that the nation is worthy of its good fortune.” ~Theodore Roosevelt

“Of all the questions which can come before this nation, short of the actual preservation of its existence in a great war, there is none which compares in importance with the great central task of leaving this land even a better land for our descendants than it is for us.”~Theodore Roosevelt

From an RV and camping enthusiasts viewpoint I would think that during a serious recession people would choose to take shorter camping trips, closer to home in an effort to still enjoy their favorite pastime, and cut costs at the same time. This would equate to camping at state parks close to home, which in turn increases the state tourism and helps local economies thrive. I see this as a time state officials should embrace their state parks, promoting them as a way to enjoy nature during these tough economic times. So why would state officials want to cut funding and close state parks? I just don’t get it!

Many of these state parks have been open to local residents and outside visitors for generations. Closing them only affects the local economy in the counties where they are located and state tourism in general. If past state park closing history is any indication many of these small surrounding towns will be financially devastated when the parks are closed.

State officials claim that closing state parks will help reduce the deficit, or because of budget cuts they can no longer fund the parks.  It really brings to question if these states are budgeting properly in the first place. Why should state parks and local economies take the hit? Why should the taxpayer lose out on the benefits state parks have to offer? I would think if these parks being closed, due to budget woes and funding, were managed and marketed properly they would be profitable to the state rather than costing the state money.

In New York for instance, the governor has recommended a proposal to close 41 parks, 14 historic sites, and service reductions at 23 parks and one historic site. These closures and reductions are supposed to help with the 8.2 billion dollar deficit. I find it sad that in the NY state park systems 125 year history this would be the first time parks would be closed. These same parks didn’t even close during the great depression!

According to an article in The Record, titled “Officials Worry about State Park Closings” other lawmakers in NY disagree with closings, saying closures would produce relatively little in savings, considering the temporary shutdowns of the three state parks in 2009 only produced a savings in the tens of thousands of dollars.

Many other states are using innovative measures in an effort to keep state parks open. Some want counties to have control over parks as opposed to the state. Others want to add a fee on vehicle registration to help fund parks and still others use the lottery and land transfer tax as methods to support state park funding. I applaud the efforts of these states to diligently work on keeping their state parks off of the state budget chopping block.

It is my final thought that elected state officials and state employees have a moral obligation to not only preserve but to protect their historical state parks. I say shame on each and every state official who uses these wonderful recreation and historical landmarks in a misguided attempt to solve state budget issues. The really sad thing is the small amount of money saved from park closures won’t truly help the state deficit problem, but the consequences down the road will surely hurt the local state resident’s lives that elected these officials in the first place.

I hope what is happening at the state level doesn’t evolve to the federal level. Our national parks need to be protected and preserved. President Obamas 2011 budget request for National Park Service is 21.6 million lower than the current 2010 fiscal year budget. The first step is always to cut the funding. In reality the Park Service budget is miniscule compared to the federal budget. It is a little price to pay to be good stewards of this precious land. Let your voice can be heard, by asking Congress to boost national park funding levels rather than lower them.


As Teddy Roosevelt said, “There is nothing so American as our national parks…. The fundamental idea behind the parks…is that the country belongs to the people, that it is in process of making for the enrichment of the lives of all of us.”

To help keep your state parks open I encourage you to contact the governor’s office, state supervisors and other state officials.

Happy Camping,

Mark Polk

RV Education 101

RV University

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  2. ron klupka

    Mark is of course right.
    The problem is, is that government allocates expenses and does not consider where the revenue comes from. So even if a campground turned a “profit”, it would never be kept open if the budget is to be cut overall. The campground may close based on whimsy, or perhaps because the municipal government in which the park resides is controlled by the opposing plitical party.

  3. Liz Bard

    The Texas State Parks are supposed to be financed by the hunting and fishing license fees. Several years ago, people raised such a ruckus with the state congressional folks during their every two year meeting, that they finally wrote a bill and it was signed by the governor to reinstate all fees from the hunting and fishing licenses to the state parks. When the appropriation was first made many years ago, they didn’t touch it, then one day someone was looking at the state budget and saw how much money was being raked in for the hunting and fishing licenses and they started picking it apart until they were only giving the state parks approximately 25% of the fees for salary, machines, repairs, etc. This also included the historical sites. Well, things starting to get run down, they couldn’t keep staff and they talked about closing parks. Then someone went to their congressional representative and showed him where the state was screwing up and misappropriating funds. The individual also showed that there had not been any bills written to appropriate the funds either. I think the individual may have gotten the Attorney General involved too by filing a complaint about it.

    Several sessions ago, the funding was back to 100% of all hunting and fishing license fees. Maybe someone should check into these other states to see how they are supposed to be funded. We also have national parks in Texas and I don’t think they are having any problems. We just got started into the RV camping and are more weekenders. Our first camping trip was at the Davy Crockett NF.

    We just had our primary election and I am going to contact the League of Women Voters who send out questionaires to the different office seekers. They publish a non-biased politcal newsletter with the questions and answers of these office seekers so they can answer their constituents (us). From what I understand about the league, they are one group if you want to get into office, you answer their questions. I know in Texas there have been candidates who felt they did not need to answer because they were so confident they had enough support from others and they lost.

    I think it is time to remind these politicians – whether first term or career – who they need to answer to and who are attempting to pay their salaries.

  4. leadfoot41

    Doesn’t any of the volunteers that stay& help out at the national & stare parks defray some of the expences of the parks? Our politicians lack the common sense that they were born with. Come November, hopefully there jobs will be on the line & probilly collect there pay from the lobbists that are in there back pockets now. Are they really our employees? Anyway, happy Rving.

  5. Ron

    Yes, it is time to do something…it’s been time. We’ve been watching our national and state parks go under funded for years and as a public employee for over 30 years I can promise you it’s not the infrastucture and maintenance costs but the irresponsible spending by the administrators and elected officials who have to take something away from everything they buy and every contract they let, while padding their budgets and hiring one anothers’ relatives. We all know it’s happening but are just to comfortable in our little worlds to make waves. Here in Florida, myself and millions of other residents pay almost $40 a year for a combo fishing license and my city recently started charging $5 to launch a boat at ramps we’ve had for decades. It will not stop if we don’t do something.

  6. Truman

    We stayed at one of my favorite parks a state beach camp ground . I like to camp in the off season more spots to choose from. This park was in the winter mode for service meaning they close the bath rooms down to one at each area.But i noticed that they have at least 4 to 5 people cleaning this one bathroom!!! And all were riding around in big 4 wheel drive vehicles not to count the many times they came by my camp site I think state parks could be managed better than they are and i hate to call a camp ground host a ghost but you never see them.It did”t use to be this way when i first came to this park years ago the Host came around and introduced him or herself to and explaned what was available at the park and around the area or just to say HI. And the price increases at this park with no hookups went from $6 when i first started to go there to $25 I love to camp there and would hate for it to close !!!! Thanks just had to let the air out !!!!!!

  7. Stan

    Sorry to hear about New York and other states plans. We are from the Philadelphia area and last September we traveled to Four Mile Creek AP near Niagara Falls. we stayed 5 days and visited Niagara Falls, Fort Niagara, Lewiston, Youngstown and Lockport. We took two paid tours in Niagara Falls and one in Lockport. We ate Breakfast in the MH and all other meals and shopping were eaten in the visited areas. We also stayed in different parks while traveling to and from Niagara Falls. If this park would have been closed we would have gone to Maine. It is a shame that the Governments do not see the econmic benifit that we campers bring to their areas.

  8. Hoppe

    If the parks don’t pay for themselves, it’s because they have too many administrators, I’m guessing. Here in Colorado the day use fee is up to $10 or so for a ‘day use’. Yes they do have maybe too many ‘Park Rangers’, but my guess is that there is a large ‘charge off’ for administrative and accounting. Haven’t heard of any closings here in Colorado yet, and don’t expect to. I have run into parks/areas in the past that had ‘No Services’ and ‘Haul it in Haul it out’ that did not even have a use fee, but the gates were open.
    I know I always get PO’d when I go to the National Parks and find the campgrounds closed and gated with the Private Management Company acting like they own our dirt. They seem to feel that if they can’t make money off the use that they have a right to close it. I do understand why the Hosts/Full Timers need/want to go south before it snows, but to put up gates and lock them is obscene. And Please don’t tell me that vandalism is going to be a huge problem when the only improvements are two holers, and NO hookups. I’m guessing the Park Service is allowing it because we didn’t have the foresight to leave them in place to manage the campgrounds. I think we should restore the National Park Service as operators and keep the income to improve the parks, cause somehow I don’t think Thousand Trails and the others, do it for free! Just my $.02……

  9. Ron Swift

    Most of these bureaucrats making this decision have no real business experience. A better idea would be to privatize these parks with a few rules to keep them open to the public. Campgrounds all around the country are still keeping their doors open. Why is this?

    Please remember this and everything else in November!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Thank you in advance.

  10. Tige

    I agree with you, Mark. It sounds crazy to me too.

  11. Ham Radio

    “Reminds me somehow of the iconic “Mad” magazine cover.” Buy this magazine or we shoot the dog.”

    For the record, the magazine cover was the National Lampoon, not Mad Magazine.

  12. Dan

    Why is it our great government which is filled with employees, when they have financial troubles instead of laying off those same employees like the bailed out companies were required to do, they just turn around hire more employees to do the same money grabbing and give them fancy names. Czar this, czar that, here a czar, there a czar everywhere a czar czar. Then get rid of needed employees like fire and police and take money from needed programs. Time to clean house!!

  13. Rick Edgar

    How do we turn this around? If these closures go through it is just the tip of the iceberg. Go with volunteers or outsource the overseeing to a 3rd party as mentioned above. There is money to be made if they are run correctly and the money collected stays with the parks. Vote this fall.

  14. Pete Fuller

    Because they don’t pay for themselves. So, from a dollar and cent standpoint you can’t justify keeping them open — and you can’t charge enough to make them pay. Also, many are in choice locations and so are worth big bucks. In fact from a dollar and cent standpoint they should probably be sold or leased to developers (although in this economy maybe not). I know, I know its not all about dollars and cents. But to a bean counter at the Capitol who probably never camped a day in his life, and jogs on a city sidewalk — who cares about a dumb old State Park or Campground? And who cares about us??

  15. David Fairbrother

    To start with 1. administrators are not campers there fore they have no intrest.
    They are typicaly bottom feeders
    they always start at the bottom and stay there..
    state park employees are dedicated and really love thier work.
    Have you ever seen an administrator layed off?
    The park folks take it on the chin till some body pitches a bitch.
    Then it’s ooops we must have missed that one.
    When one enters the political world one needs to be open to the money.
    The folks with the money are generaly not the campers.
    Sure the guys in the big are r.v.s. have some money but not like the companies
    Looked at your insurance bill lately?

  16. Ronald

    Mark, I can’t find anything to disagree with you in any way and I also understand what Art is saying about importance and priorities.

    I think that picking on the state parks is that its highly visible but the states also know that we are basically politically lazy on single issue issues, usually.

    I also find it ironic that the states are taking this approach on the heels of the highly acclaimed Ken Burns National Parks series. Maybe we need to send copies of that to our state legislators and let them know that our state parks fill the same bill and needs that the national park system does.

  17. John

    In 1998, Arkansas citizens passed a proposition that gives 1/8 cent tax increase to State Parks and they are in great condition.

  18. Drew

    Thanks Mark,

    I sent the letter off to the three stooges that “represent” us.


  19. joe

    I honestly think politicians cut out the things the public likes the most to show they are really suffering. They want us to feel the pain first so they can continue to add stupid pork to their agenda. I agree with what seems to be a very large majority that the incumbents need to go. It is time we rise up and show them that this country is all of ours not just for their personal gain. Has anyone ever heard of a politician mention cutting hours on their personal staff or their own salary to save on the budget? Has anyone ever heard of a politician willing to take the same 401 K plan or retirement plan that we have to live with (hoping the company we work with will match a little of our own personal savings- hoping that the company we work for doesn’t cut our pension if we were lucky enough to get one) to save money on the budget? I don’t think so. Am I mad at the current state of this country due to the greedy politicians? YES. Whew I’m glad to get that off my mind, and I can’t wait until November elections this year. PLEASE register to vote so we can stop this craziness like closing SPs.

  20. Keith Waldrop

    In a “budget crisis”, it is common practice for politicians to direct the closure of facilities which are highly visible, and usually popular, with the people. It helps them call attention to the problem and develop support for normally unpopular “cures” like raising taxes and/or user fees to keep the facilities open (and usually raise incremental revenue for other purposes at the same time).

  21. Steve Pfluger

    Yet the Feds just purchased 2900 acres in the Virgin Islands for 50 million dollars. !000 miles from Miami. How many average folks will ever visit? Arizon, NY along with a few other states could sue the money to help with both the state and NPS parks.
    In NY, we have overspent on government jobs, given into labor unions, helped the MTA… I know folks retiring on 50K plus per year that never earned 50K! And the state senate and congress persons…. It’s only going to get worse…..
    Had the pleasure of 5 months out west in both NP and SP areas, wonderful, hate to think any would ever close.

  22. Irving Ray

    City’s near these parks are dependent on the income from them and while the State can’t run then profitable the fellow down the street , who pays taxes could .
    If the state can’t do the job ,send them packing and let the nearest town run it.To hell with the state!!! Example
    Burney Falls. Believe me the state charges plenty to use there facility.

  23. Art Stebes

    States, unlike the national government, must have a balanced budget. I agree state parks are very important, and many are wonderful places. Still it is not as important as police services, paving and plowing state roads, or aid to education. Remember this is recreation, not necessity, and there are times when things like police services are a necessity. Everyone wants states to have a balanced budget, and no one wants more taxes. What happens when expenses exceed income? Something has to go. Everyone wants the other guy to take a cut, and no one wants to sacrifice, ever. Well guess what, educating our kids, and plowing state highways are more important then state parks.

  24. Dave

    If looks as we need a boston Tea Party to wip this Country back in shap to what we want
    just to be able to enjoy 2 weeks vacataion time affter working so hard
    and now you dont want me to go camping to get away shame on the state I dont see you giving anything in your Pay cuts to help the buget
    you make more then any worker dose and spend more have the best health care i have none at all — sham on you shame on you — give us a break and stop cuting our things — and cut yours some and give us a litle back —–!!!!!!

  25. Reminds me somehow of the iconic “Mad” magazine cover.” Buy this magazine or we shoot the dog.”

    Parks are being held hostage to bring attention to the state budget crisis.

  26. william e. carlson

    And now allowing guns in state parks, count me out, beer and guns and campfires do not mix!

  27. agesilaus

    These are nothing more than attempts to squeeze more money out of the taxpayers by closing popular attractions. Arizona is a prime example, a private company, which already runs over a hundred state and federal parks and campgrounds, offered to take over the parks that Arizona is closing. And to pay the state fees while running the parks. They would not raise entry fees and if offered a multiyear contract they would improve the run down structures at the park. They would even do this on a year to year basis but would not make park improvements in that case.

    This is a company with a long track record that operates many facilities in the west.

    The Arizona State Parks refused to even listen to a presentatiuon on this proposal. They don’t want the parks to be open. There is no other explanation. Of course this would reduce their empire’s size which is a major problem for them. But it is clearly a case of the public be damned.

  28. I agree, State Parks are a treasure in themselves and can also be a positive financial force to be reckoned with with time are tough. RV owners want to be able to take RV Vacations even when times are hard.