It’s getting harder to find a parking spot at Missouri state parks.
According to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, visits to state parks increased 17 percent in the first seven months of this year compared with the same period in 2011, the Missourian, Columbia, reported.
The number of visitors at Missouri state parks has been increasing over the past four years, but the 17 percent increase in 2012 was the most significant jump in visits in the past decade.
The statistics were gathered by using electronic sensors that record vehicle traffic at park entrances.
Missourians and out-of-state visitors are using the state’s park system to camp, hike, bike, swim and fish.
The increase in state park recreation is being used to make the case for increasing the amount of money for state parks.
Stewart Keating, an advocate for Environment Missouri, said the increasing number of people visiting Missouri’s state parks “highlights the critical need for state parks to receive more funding.”
Environment Missouri, the Missouri State Parks Association and 20 other organizations have been promoting an increased budget for the state park system. These organizations estimate that state parks are in need of an extra $200 million on top of the nearly $47 million already budgeted to Missouri State Parks.
Keating said that a limited state budget is affecting the maintenance of state parks by limiting groundskeeping and investment in roads, bridges and sewage treatment.
State parks have also been limited by a smaller staff since 2009, when 120 positions were cut, reducing the number of employees by 20 percent.