Many state parks are beginning to implement innovative strategies to help with funding and support, key issues among all parks, and this report looks at some of those.
State Parks’ Progress TowardSelf-Sufficiency
By Holly Lippke Fretwell and Kimberly Frost
Although our national parks are considered the crown jewels of our country, state parks also are stunningly beautiful and play a key role in protecting our natural resources. Providing recreation close to home, state parks receive three times more visitors than national parks. The variations among the state park systems and their agencies make them a useful laboratory for understanding and comparing park management and stewardship.
In 1997, PERC issued a paper, Back to the Future to Save Our Parks, which examined the potential for creating self-sufficient national parks (that is, parks supported by visitor fees, donations, and grants rather than appropriations). As a companion piece PERC released a research study, Parks in Transition: A Look at State Parks, that gave detailed information about many state parks. The following paper updates that research and provides a sketch of 30 state park systems between 1995 and 2002. It offers a brief look at the physical characteristics of each system, its amenities and programs, visitation, fees, and funding sources. Findings come primarily from a survey of 30 park systems as well as some media sources.
One of the greatest challenges facing state parks is their ability to serve a growing public with limited financial support. Several states have generated new strategies for financial support, and others are considering them because they anticipate decreased support from taxes. New support strategies include expanded user fees, concession contracts, "friends" groups, corporate sponsorships, and endowment funds.