In the shadow of today’s Great Recession, South Carolina’s parks are turning elsewhere to stay above water — away from the government and instead to the purses and wallets of the people who use them, the Greenville News reported.
There is a cost to swim in the lake that long ago served as Greenville’s chief water source — $1.50 for the kids, $2 for adults.
Added to that is another $2 for adults and older teens to enter the park and catch a bird’s eye glimpse of the nearby city and beyond, whether by car or nature trail.
However, the reality today is that the old model of taxpayer money funding the state’s parks no longer works, parks officials say.
The parks, they say, must be self-sufficient to stay viable — from Table Rock and Caesars Head in the Upstate to Hunting Island in the Lowcountry.
“It costs money to operate it, even if it was built back in the 1930s,” said Duane Parrish, director of the state’s Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism. “If we don’t charge, the quality of what we provide is going to be less.”
State parks are on their way to becoming self-supporting — 84 percent of the way in fact — increasing revenues by $1.9 million. But the hike to full self-sufficiency is still a slogging one — $4 million short.
Is the goal realistic? Yes, Parrish says.
The keepers of the state’s natural treasures must be creative, striking the delicate balance between keeping ownership in the hands of the public while refusing to ignore parks’ favorable position in the hierarchy of the recreational marketplace.
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