Editorial: Bills could keep state parks open in shutdown
We applaud efforts to keep state parks open if another state shutdown occurs.
Bills have been introduced in the House and Senate that say state parks must remain open, even if a biennial budget hasn't been enacted. If a state budget hasn't been adopted, money from the state parks account in the natural resources fund would be appropriated in the amount necessary to keep state parks and recreation areas operating.
We remember last summer's impact on the Park Rapids area with the shutdown of Itasca State Park in particular. The large number of people who travel to our area to see the Headwaters of the Mississippi are important to our businesses.
Last year's state government shutdown closed state parks for 20 days during the peak season, meaning a loss of about $3 million in revenue for parks and trails - not to mention a lot of disappointed and even angry park users.
According to the Parks and Trails Council of Minnesota, during the summer - the time when a budget shutdown is most likely to occur - state parks take in about $1 million a week in user fees; during the same time period, DNR expenses for state parks are normally about $500,000 a week.
The House bill is in the Environment, Energy and Natural Resources Policy and Finance Committee. The Senate bill has been passed out of the Environment and Natural Resources Committee and referred to the Senate Finance Committee.
To track these bills in the House and Senate, go to www.parksandtrail.org/2012billtracker.
We hope these bills make it through to keep our state parks open in the event of a shutdown.
PARK RAPIDS ENTERPRISE