Gov. Sebelius recommends dedicated funding to support state parks

Public comments are invited at the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks' (KDWP) web log on a plan that would provide open admission to Kansas state parks. Currently, park visitors must purchase a daily or annual vehicle permit to enter the parks.

Gov. Kathleen Sebelius’ recommendation would allocate State General Fund (SGF) dollars to replace vehicle admission fee revenues and would provide a permanent funding source to finance capital improvements in state parks.

The first state park -- Kanopolis -- opened in 1958. Since then, 23 additional state parks have been approved by the Kansas Legislature. In its early years, from 1958 through 1963, the state parks system was funded entirely by the SGF. Park entrance fees were implemented in 1964 and camping fees in 1982. Since 1995, SGF support for parks has been reduced from 60 percent of the annual park operating budget to as low as 19 percent.

As SGF support declined, park fees were increased to bear more of the funding needs of the state park system. Park users have enjoyed some relief since January 2007, when vehicle fees were cut in half through enhanced funding support from the governor and Legislature.

To finance open admissions to the parks (camping and other special use fees would still apply), Gov. Sebelius’ recommendation would allocate $1.6 million in SGF dollars annually. The plan also would allocate $3 million annually from the Expanded Lottery Act Revenue Fund to finance capital improvements.

To post a comment and view other comments from the public on this issue, visit the KDWP blog.