Ill. Park Concessionaire Opposes Park Entry Fees
The concessionaire at Starved Rock State Park in Illinois claims lawmakers' plan to introduce user fees to enter state recreational areas will not only slash attendance but would be economically "devastating" to communities such as Utica, whose businesses depend on park traffic.
The Times, Ottawa, reported that Terry Cross, park concessionaire for the past 23 years, released a media statement that said the recently passed House Bill 5789 to charge vehicle admission fees for all visitors to enter state park and recreational areas is a bad idea.
"Illinois state park funds have suffered from years of legislative sweeps, yet this bill would not be exempt from a sweep," Cross said in the statement. "Many factors have led to the Illinois Department of Revenue's budget crisis but paid admission is not the answer."
In his studies of states' fee policies, Cross concluded, "Park attendance (across the state) will drop dramatically and the economic impact could be devastating for the 324 parks and public lands in Illinois, local communities, business owners dependent on park traffic as well as on tourism in the state of Illinois."
Cross noted, at this time, Iowa, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Ohio have no park entrance fees.
"Iowa and Tennessee had park fees (at one point), but discontinued them," he said. "In 2003, the state of Washington enacted a $5-a-day parking fee, admissions dropped 68 percent the following year."
Furthermore, Cross believes park fees could be considered a way to discriminate against low-income families.
In an effort to make the public and legislators aware of the pitfalls of this proposal, Cross has submitted recommendations and concerns to local legislators for their review.
"It's important for the public to know that free admission to the parks may no longer be available," added Cross.
State Sen. Sue Rezin, R-Morris, said the adoption of some sort of entry fees to visit Illinois state parks "most likely will happen."
Rezin recently told The Times her biggest concern in the park fee legislation is how the money collected from the fee "actually gets back into the park system. That's the biggest hurdle (to me). We must be sure those funds collected go back to the parks for maintenance and improvements."
To read the entire article in The Times click here.