South Carolina has set a goal that no other states have been able to consistently achieve: creating a self-sustaining park system.
Gov. Nikki Haley asked Duane Parrish, the Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism director to get the Palmetto State’s 49 state parks running in the black, without the assistance of the general fund, WSPA-TV, Spartanburg, reported.
Parrish and Phil Gaines, the director of the State Park Service, are confident that by the end of 2013 that long-discussed goal will be reality.
For years, only the state’s five coastal parks brought in more money than they cost to run, but now that number is up to 10.
“We’ve been building toward this for a while, becoming less dependent over the last ten years. Now we’ve just taken that final step and focused and narrowed that goal by defining a finish line,” said Gaines, who became director in 2005 after 23 years in the park service.
Right now the parks make $20 million in revenue each year which is about 83 percent of their budget. The general fund accounts for the last $4 million. But that’s half of what tax payers contributed in 2002, when the $8 million accounted for 66 percent of the parks budget.
There have been staffing cuts in that time, but Gaines attributes recent headway to the online reservation system that launched in 2005 and lets people sign up for campsites and cabins more easily, while letting park rangers focus on helping the public in person.
From the start of the online program in 2005 to 2010, annual reservations jumped from 93,500 to 124,500. Plus, like any hotel, the parks are able to change prices based on demand, which according to Gaines makes self-sufficiency attainable.
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