We need the Ohio Senate to step up for Ohio’s state parks. The Ohio Senate recently stripped $25 million in state parks improvement and maintenance funding from the Governor’s and the Ohio House’s versions of the pending state budget bill. Our state parks are some of our most important natural assets. The Senate should restore this critical funding. Park maintenance is a safety issue, a quality of life issue, and an economic issue. Restoration of this funding will allow projects such as fire safety, HVAC repair and other critical infrastructure improvements needed for operational success in the future, as well as to ensure parks customers have a safe environment.
The State Park Fund isn’t one that you might have heard of, but if you’ve visited a State Park, you have seen it in action. This crucial fund provides infrastructure improvements, such as fire safety systems, HVAC and electrical systems and roof repairs. In the past few years, there have been major dam repairs, which have been taking capital dollars. Now, it is time to focus on smaller infrastructure issues.
As we continue to invest in our State Parks, we need to make sure that they are well-maintained. Ohio consumers spend $24.3 billion a year in outdoor recreation. From an economic standpoint, it is important that our State Parks keep their quality high. The parks system has had a deferred infrastructure improvement/maintenance issue for years, and it is critical that we support their efforts to keep our parks and facilities beautiful and functionally sound.
We appreciate the many positive aspects to the Senate Operating Budget with regards to Ohio’s natural resources. The Senate has maintained additional funding for the Division of Wildlife through increased hunting and fishing license fees; kept new funding strategies for our Scenic Rivers; increased funding for Mahoning River projects; and maintained the $47 million for acquisition of part of the AEP ReCreation Land. It is a strong budget, but it misses the mark when it comes to improving the safety of our state park system.
We urge the Senate to reestablish the State Park Fund line item in the operating budget to include a one-time $25 million dollar transfer from fiscal year 2019 General Revenue Funds Surplus Revenue to provide Parks with the opportunity to update and improve our Park system. Restoration of this funding will allow projects such as fire safety and critical infrastructure improvements needed for operational success in the future, as well as to ensure park-goers have a safe and enjoyable environment.