Joe Elton, State Parks Director has a well known mantra about Virginia State Parks and, actually, all state park systems. He says that state parks are vital for three reasons:
Virginia State Parks are a therapeutic tonic for the mind, body and spirit. (That means that the visitor experience needs to be beneficial to both mental and physical health.)
Virginia State Parks are natural and cultural preserves, where flora and fauna thrive in natural habitats and cultural treasures and are maintained and protected for future generations. (While cultural and natural treasures need to be conserved, we must also understand the role park designers and managers play in enhancing the aesthetic qualities of our parks and creating rewarding scenic opportunities that inspire and refresh.)
Virginia State Parks are important economic engines fueling the local and state economies. (Sometimes we only think about the direct impact of tourism or recreation dollars spent during a park visit and not the impact parks have on the quality of life for the community, real estate values, healthy lifestyles, etc.)p
My favorite is the first. Every time I enter a Virginia State Park it’s like the weight of the world is lifted off me. Ienvy my co-workers that get to work in the park day in and day out.
Obviously the second reason is important too. We maintain our State Parks in Virginia and protect them for future generations ANDgive Virginians and their guests access to these wonderful treasures.
But, ah, the last reason. This is the reason we trot out to remind legislators and the public who forget how vital #1 and #2 are. Taxpayers, politicians, listen carefully. This is the reason we should be FUNDEDWELL!
The economy has taken a toll on a number of state park systems. Parks are closing, cutting back on services, or doing more with less (like we at Virginia State Parks $1.7 million less). Sounds like we’re one of the lucky states.
Annually, we calculate the value that our visitors contribute to the local communities in Virginia. In 2008 this figure was $168 million. In fiscal year 2009 we will spend a little over $17 million of the state’s General Fund and $31 million if you count the revenue we earn from visitors (which thankfully goes 100% into supporting us).
But don’t take our word for it. The Political Economy Research Institute from the University of Massachusetts Amherst recently completed a study of New York’s State Park system. The bottom line? ” … the impact of the State Park System on New York’s economy is sizeable: the benefits exceed the direct costs of maintaining the state parks many times over. The benefit-to-cost ratio is more than 5-to-1—more than $5 in benefits for every $1 in costs.” Can anyone think of anything paying those kinds of dividends in this economy that can’t get you arrested?
Closing parks, cutting spending for parks, reducing support until they get so backlogged in maintenance projects that it will be many years before they can recover – seems to be penny wise and pound foolish.