Passport to the Parks

It’s a good time now to call your legislators in support of a Passport to the Parks program that would, through a $10 vehicle registration fee to be paid every two years (when vehicle registrations are renewed), direct over $10 million a year to the state’s parks and forest system (110 state parks and 30 state forests).

The governor’s budget calls for a cut of about $6.5 million to the parks and forest system. This includes reductions in maintenance that lead to what is called “passive management,” but which environmentalists such as Eric Hammerling, executive director of the Connecticut Forest and Park Association, call “active mismanagement.”

The “passport” part of the program would allow drivers with CT plates to enter state parks for free, while visitors from other states would have to pay an entry fee. The proposal died in committee, but bipartisan supporters are still hoping the idea could be revived as part of the state budget.

An alternative funding source has been proposed by Sen. Craig A. Miner, R-Litchfield, co-chairman of the Environment Committee: a 5-cent surcharge on plastic shopping and grocery bags. The important thing is that there be an assured funding stream, and it would be easier to ensure the funds go the parks system if the funding were related either via a passport or an environmental-oriented tax.

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