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Utah Travel Headlines

Friday, February 11, 2011

Changes Coming At Some Utah State Parks

Some Utah State Parks will see reduced budges and staff cutbacks, as lawmakers struggle to balance the state’s budget.

The State Legislature is now in session and budget cutbacks are a major issue. The down economy means there is less money to spread around and so cutbacks are needed in many areas. There had been talk of closing some parks, but lawmakers now say they can prevent that from happening.

The Salt Lake Tribune has this article about the issue. Below are excerpts.

No Utah State Parks will close in the foreseeable future and $1.5 million of restricted funds will likely be appropriated in the next fiscal year to help ease the pain of a projected $3 million loss of general tax dollars.

About 25 park employees probably will lose their jobs and major changes are coming in the way state facilities that host 4.6 million visitors a year operate — including reduced hours and seasonal closures.

It used to be that lawmakers viewed parks as a public good and didn’t mind putting taxpayer dollars into both building and subsidizing facilities such as campgrounds and golf courses. Increasingly, though, states are turning to user fees and are making an effort to force parks to come close to breaking even financially.

"Every park will have a business plan by July 1," parks division director Mary Tullius promised the committee. "We expect innovation from every park in the system."

To make up the loss of revenue, Tullius proposed savings of $315,000 in the way the state’s four golf courses are operated, $693,872 in savings by closing some parks during slower seasons and managing parks that are near each other as complexes, $54,500 from converting law enforcement officers into other jobs, and reducing programs to the tune of $1,389,472.

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