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State Parks need another $3M, at least, to maintain facilities

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- State Parks need at least an additional $3 million a year of revenue to adequately maintain facilities, state parks chief Ken Caplinger told legislators Tuesday.

Caplinger said the state parks system has never fully recovered from the June 2012 derecho storm that damaged and closed parks.

"It wasn't just the impact from when the lights were out," he told a legislative interim committee on Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources. "Our business has not rebounded to pre-storm levels."

The system lost $1.5 million of revenue from state parks closures following the storm, but received a payment of just $500,000 from the state Board of Risk and Insurance Management for the lost income.

That hit at a bad time, with state budget cuts and higher operating expenses putting the squeeze on state parks, reducing available funds to maintain and repair a large and aging system, he said.

"We think of Twin Falls and Pipestem parks as new," he noted. "These parks are 42, 43 years old."

Caplinger said a number of possible revenue sources have been discussed, including increasing the soft drink tax, hotel-motel taxes, or severance tax, with a portion dedicated to state parks, but said he has not endorsed any tax options.

He said West Virginia is one of a handful of states that do not charge entry fees into state parks, and/or parking fees.

"We're going to have to fix it and maintain it, or it's going to fall down around us," he said of the current state of state parks.

Reach Phil Kabler at philk@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1220.


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