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Giving to parks: It should be easier

New Hampshire's State Park System is striving to find new ways to remain self-funded. It is partnering with local and national businesses, accepting sponsorships, and reaching out to expand its base of volunteer workers. One thing it is not authorized by law to do? Accept donations.

Fortunately, the Senate votes today on a bill to change that. Senate Bill 237 would allow the state Division of Parks and Recreation to accept 'gifts and donations.' The bill, requested by the Department of Resources and Economic Development, would allow the department to aggressively seek big-dollar donations for state parks, and thus relieve pressure on the department to ask for general fund appropriations.

The bill divides donations into two categories. Any donation of $2,500 or less could be accepted by the division directly. Any gift worth more than that would need to pass through the governor and Executive Council.

The Executive Council has to approve state contracts worth $10,000 or more, and personal service contracts worth $2,500 or more. The direct donation cutoff in SB 237 is consistent with the personal service contract cutoff. If it were raised to $10,000, though, that would encourage larger gifts. There is nothing quite like being forced through a bureaucratic and potentially political approval process to discourage donors from writing big checks.

The bill also ends the sunsets on DRED administrators' authority to make field purchases of up to $2,000. That authority expires at the end of this fiscal year; the bill would make it permanent.

SB 237 helps the State Park System help itself, which in turn helps park users and taxpayers - two groups that do not always overlap. It ought to have unanimous support.

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