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State parks fees increased

New Hampshire Union Leader

February 01. 2012 11:44PM

CONCORD - It will cost a dollar more to go to some of most popular state parks and five more to camp this summer under fee hikes approved by the Legislature.

Day use admission will go from $4 to $5 per adult at some lake beaches, the hour meter rate at Hampton will go from $1.75 to $2, and it will cost on average about $5 more a night for campers needing hook-ups under the fee package approved by Senate Fiscal Committee Jan. 20.

State parks estimate it will help raise $388,280 more for the 72 parks, which are operationally self-funded, have a backlog of deferred maintenance and are in an operating deficit.

'This represents a 4.4 percent increase in operating revenue over 2011 and does not include Cannon ski operations and concessions,' the Dec. 29 report to Rep. Ken Weyler, chairman of the fiscal committee, reads.

The state Parks Advisory Committee will be briefed on the details Monday at 1 p.m. in Franconia Notch Park Headquarters.

Parks and Recreation Director Phil Bryce said significant thought was placed into the fee report and noted that in some cases, costs are going down.

He said the hope is for more frequent users to buy the $105 family season pass, which pays for itself after four visits, or for the new state park license plate for $93, including the plate.

Under the fee hike, however, day-use admission will go from $4 to $5 for an adult at Ellacoya, Monadnock, Pawtuckaway, Sunapee, Wellington and White Lake. It will remain $4 at other parks where fees are charged. Maine charges $5.

No changes would be imposed for those with tents.

However, the standard camping sites with water and electricity will go from $30 to $35. Magalloway Watchman Tower, however, is reduced from $75 to $65 nightly.

Hampton parking meters will see an hourly fee increase from $1.75 to $2 an hour 'to be consistent with day use vehicle rates in other Seacoast parks;'

The measure approved by the fiscal committee expands the definition of a family season pass from four to six people.

The fee change also allows for chaperones of school groups to pay only $2 rather than $4 but limit school group discounts to weekday, non-peak times.

State employees also get a break. As part of the current State Employees Association collective bargaining agreement, collective bargaining agreement employees get discounts for admission. In the past two years, that has cost parks almost $50,000 in lost revenue, but the new fees note that camping fees are not the same as admission.

All active military, regardless of residency, receive free admission to day-use areas, including vehicle entry to Hampton Beach-South and Wallis Sands. They are also offered free use of function space as well 'during times of declared war.'

The rules to book pavilions were changed to require a 25 percent non-refundable deposit for reservations. Also approved is an increase in the daily pavilion costs for Ellacoya, Monadnock, Pawtuckaway, Sunapee, Wellington and White Lake by $5. Renting Jericho Mountain pavilion went from $200 to $400 for a capacity of 100 but decreased at Monadnock from $120 to $80 for a capacity of 16. The Milan Hill group use area fee will be $120 for a capacity of 30. Division Employees are provided up to two family season passes for day-use areas, rather than a letter granting free admission from their supervisor.

It concludes with a freebie for the state's top brass. 'General Court provisions are extended to the governor and executive councilors, including vehicle entry to Hampton Beach-South and Wallis Sands,' it notes.

The last fee package offered up by the department was in 2010.

The 2010 10-Year Plan for the parks indicated $28.5 million in deferred maintenance needed to be done in the next five years.

Politics State Parks

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