DNR Seeks $5M Funding Increase for State Parks - Southern Maryland Headline News

DNR Seeks $5M Funding Increase for State Parks

ANNAPOLIS (November 8, 2007) — The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) yesterday released the recently completed Maryland State Parks Funding Study, A plan to fully fund the operations of the Maryland Park Service. The study, which examines the current needs of Maryland’s park system and includes recommendations for increased funding over the next five to six years, was prepared by a work group comprised of staff and park advocates. Governor Martin O’Malley’s revenue package, currently being considered by the General Assembly, proposes a $5 million increase in funding for Maryland State Parks.

“Maryland’s State Parks are not only a treasure for Maryland’s working families and significant contributors to our state and local economies; they are, in many ways, the public face of our state,” said DNR Secretary John R. Griffin, who commended the work group for their comprehensive effort. “Governor O’Malley clearly understands that an investment in our state parks is an investment in our quality of life and our future.”

Maryland’s Park Service (MPS) has suffered significant decline in recent years due to funding cuts.

“Chronic inadequate funding has pushed Maryland’s state parks to a crisis point,” said Tim Casey, Friends of Maryland State Forests and Parks, Inc. President. “We applaud Governor O’Malley’s action, and are hopeful that FY ’09 will be the turning point for a brighter future for Maryland’s unparalleled public lands and the valuable services they provide for Maryland’s citizens.”

Annual visitors to State Parks increased to an all time high of nearly 12 million last year. Examining the current and historical funding and visitation levels, the study illustrates the impacts of current inadequate funding for Maryland’s State Parks. Funding support for State Parks was greater in 1991 than 2007, despite a 4 million visitor increase during the same period. State Parks lost 25 percent of their full time staff between 2002 and 2006. Consequently, the ratio of staff to visitors is now 1 to 55,000, greatly diminishing MPS ability to provide services; reductions have also forced depletion of special fund reserves needed for repairs and unanticipated revenue shortages.

The injection of new funds proposed by the Governor will allow the Maryland Park Service to restore operating hours to meet visitor needs and continue to provide basic services, say DNR officials. Without new funding, park closures and further curtailed programming and services are likely.

“Our State Parks are often the only opportunity some Marylanders have to experience and enjoy our natural resources,” said DNR Secretary John R. Griffin. “Adequate funding is critical to our ability to ensure safe, enjoyable experiences for our citizens and visitors, and sustainable stewardship of this public trust.”

With funding from the Keith Campbell Foundation for the Environment and support from the Friends of Maryland State Forests and Parks, DNR assembled a Maryland State Parks Funding Study Work Group of dedicated citizens and professionals to complete the study required by the Maryland General Assembly’s Supplemental Budget No. 3, 2007 Joint Chairmen’s Report. The full report is available online at http://www.dnr.maryland.gov/dnrnews/download/MSP_Funding_Report.pdf .

Source: Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR)

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