Linda Hamilton, an environmental educator and a seasonal employee at Lory State Park, is busy.
In between answering phone calls, manning the entrance window, trail work and doing her actual job â€“â€“ facilitating school groups who come to the park and teaching them about the environment â€“â€“ Hamilton is one of many state park employees picking up slack following the latest slew of state budget cuts.
â€œEvery employee here has got to always wear multiple hats and go above and beyond our call of duty,â€ said Hamilton, who has worked at Lory State Park for 10 years.
With tax revenues steadily decreasing and no reprieve in sight, the Colorado State Parks Board unanimously voted to approve fee increases for daily and annual entrance passes at all 42 of Coloradoâ€™s state parks.Â
The state parks are funded partially by lottery revenue, with a good portion of funding coming from state taxes. State parks may even lose general fund support in the 2011/2012 fiscal year.
â€œWe hope that the fee increase will give the funding we need to maintain a high quality experience and ensure public safety,â€ said Deb Frazier, the communications manager of the state park system.
The fee increase will add a dollar to daily admission costs and $10 to yearly passes. In addition, fees for camping will increase by $2 at the 12 most used parks during peak season.
Through the increases, the state parks will add an additional $1.3 million annually. It will cover operational fees and staff costs.
â€œPeople forget that for just $3-8, a whole car full of people can get into the parks,â€ Frazier said. â€œEven with fee increases, thatâ€™s still a pretty good deal.â€
More than 12 million people visit Coloradoâ€™s state parks annually, with a majority being Colorado residents. According to Frazier, during a recent market survey, 95 percent of residents asked were satisfied with the state park experience.
â€œEven in the wake of budget cuts, we really work hard to maintain the quality of our sites, and give Coloradoans a cheap, fun, and safe recreational experience,â€ Frazier said.
Both Frazier and Hamilton agree that park users will see no changes as the budget cuts go into effect, citing the commitment of park staff and volunteers.
â€œThe State Parks have always valued the amazing commitment of our volunteers to keep the park experience as amazing as it can be,â€ Frazier said. Â
Students wishing to volunteer for state parks can visit the Colorado State Parks website or call their local state park.Â
â€œWe all value the significance and amazing landscape of Coloradoâ€™s state parks,â€ Hamilton said. â€œAnd weâ€™re all committed to making sure that we can have that same experience in the future. These are our parks, and itâ€™s up to us to maintain them.â€
Outdoor Life reporter Allison Sylte can be reached at email@example.com.