In yet another example of how Washington can learn from energetic, cost-conscious state governments, New Hampshire’s state park system–24 natural areas, 12 historic sites, and 36 diverse recreation areas–is enjoying its seventh year of self-sufficiency.
The park system’s income–fees, rents, and commissions–is supplemented by an extensive volunteer corps and a growing array of innovative partnership programs. New Hampshire’s park system, characterized by low overhead, high volunteerism, and highly motivated employees, provides a revealing contrast with America’s famed national parks, many of which are in a state of gross disrepair. While the National Park Service recovers less than 10 percent of its costs through user fees, New Hampshire’s parks earn well over 100 percent.
As noted by Wilbur LaPage in the Summer 1995 issue of Different Drummer, volunteer efforts, largely absent from the national parks, are a key component of New Hampshire’s success. LaPage points out that volunteers have opened parks early, kept them open late, provided interpretive services, hosted special events, raised funds, and provided an added degree of park protection that is invaluable.
According to LaPage, higher user fees and growing public involvement in the parks are really two sides of the same coin. “In fact,” he says, “park advocacy and stewardship may well increase with the stronger sense of ownership that comes from paying directly for direct benefits.”
PF: Wilbur LaPage’s “New Hampshire’s Self-Funding State Parks,” published in the Summer 1997 issue of Different Drummer, is available through PolicyFax. Call 847/202-4888 and request document #2316417 (5 pages). Also from that issue of Different Drummer, see “Texas’ Entrepreneurial Budget system,” by Ron Holliday, PolicyFax document #2316416 (5 pages).