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Lawmakers review funding for state parks

Updated: Thursday, October 24 2013, 05:43 PM EDT

By Jon Rudder

NEW MANCHESTER, W.Va - West Virginia's vast network of state parks attracts people to take in their natural beauty and enjoy its rivers and streams. The eye-catching scenery is mixed with structures showing signs of decline.

With the 2014 legislative session approaching, state legislators are looking at funding options for the up keep of those parks that attract millions of visitors each year. With some of the structures upwards of 75 years old, lawmakers are working to find ways to pay for long term upkeep of these facilities

A system-wide assessment of critical projects in the state park system will begin to determine how much upkeep is needed and how much it will cost.

"We want to make sure that we can do what we can to keep the parks up and still live within our means," West Virginia State Delegate Randy Swartzmiller said. "Money is hard to come by for the park system and the money that we bring in doesn't pay for all the upgrades that we need. So we're constantly looking for ways to come up with that extra funding."

West Virginia park officials operate tight budgets that have caused needed repairs and maintenance to pile up. Parks are in need of new roofs, heating and air conditioning repairs, pavement resurfacing and power line upgrades.

"The bigger type campers that come into these sites now they need hook-ups such as satellite, higher voltage electric and those type of things," Swartzmiller said. "So we continue to invest in those types of areas for the campers to keep up."

Lawmakers haven't yet discussed any specific funding or revenue proposals for the parks, but say that one idea charging an entry fee to the parks is not an option.

"We're not going to put up road blocks in the way of a fee to deter people from coming into our park system," Swartzmiller said. "We want to encourage them to come into their parks so they can see what West Virginia has to offer."

When that assessment is complete, which is estimated to take a couple months, the Department of Commerce will present Governor Tomblin with a proposal to both catch up on maintenance and ensure future funding sufficient to keep the parks in good condition.

Lawmakers review funding for state parks


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