Report of the Governor's Commission on the Future of State Parks

WATERBURY – The Governor’s Commission on the Future of State Parks has concluded that offering a full spectrum of recreational opportunities, finding sustainable funding for operations and maintenance and making wise and appropriate investments are needed to optimize the environmental and economic value of Vermont’s state parks.



The commission’s report, which can be found at www.vtstateparks.com, was released today by the Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation. The Department has been charged by the Governor with moving forward with several of the commission’s key recommendations.

The commission is calling for a full “re-visioning” of each individual park and the system as a whole to assure that it meets the recreational interests of Vermonters and visitors; the creation of a Vermont State Parks Foundation and expanded community partnerships to support operations and maintenance; and additional bonding for infrastructure. Commission members acknowledged the bonding proposal may not be feasible until the economy improves.

“A strong and relevant park system boosts the tourism and recreation-based economy – particularly in rural parts of our state,” said Win Smith, chairman of the commission. “The commission got to the heart of the matter in discussing the future of the state parks: innovations and investments are necessary to make the system healthy and successful for future generations.”

Governor Douglas appointed the 23-member commission to explore much-needed improvements to the state park system, launching the first significant focus on revitalizing the park system in several decades.

ABOUT THE PARKS FOUNDATION & COMMUNITY PARTNERSHIPS
The Vermont State Parks Foundation will be a private philanthropic organization with the primary charge of raising private funds in support of the park system. Emphasis will be on helping meet the significant infrastructure renovation needs. The Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation expects to see the entity — and the policy that guides its relationship with the state — in place in 2010.

Forests, Parks and Recreation Commissioner Jason Gibbs said the Department will also be reaching out to Vermonters to build dynamic community-based, public-private alliances that will help ensure the parks remain vital and relevant contributors to the communities in which they are located.

“Involving local partners will ensure a valuable result and develop a stronger network of support for individual parks and the entire system,” Gibbs said. “Already, plans are in place to expand our current network of partnerships by helping organizations like the Boy Scouts adopt parks and make meaningful contributions to the protection and preservation of Vermont’s extraordinary system of state parks.”

ABOUT THE RE-VISIONING PROCESS
In response to the commission’s re-visioning recommendation, the Department will complete a swift and systematic review of each of the state’s 52 parks. Emphasis will be placed on those parks in need of the most improvement.

Gibbs said every park has its own potential to appeal to, and serve, different recreational interests.

“The re-visioning process is a full-scale revitalization of our state park system that will identify and leverage the strengths of each individual park and strengthen the system as a whole,” Gibbs said. “We must ensure that every park provides high quality, affordable recreational opportunities in a way that ensures the environmental and economic sustainability of the entire park system.”

The initial phase of re-visioning will include six currently underused parks. Changes in facilities, recreational offerings, services, policies and marketing will likely be needed, Gibbs said.

Allis State Park in Brookfield, Thetford State Park, North Hero State Park, Shaftsbury State Park, Maidstone State Park and New Discovery State Park in Peacham are among the department’s first priorities for re-visioning.

Upon initial review, the Department has concluded that temporarily modifying some of the services offered at these parks would be appropriate for the 2009 season. This would align operations with existing visitor patterns and keep the system in line with current fiscal realities. As part of the re-visioning process an operational plan that reinforces the recreational value of each park and results in increased usage will be deployed for future seasons.

“This is about protecting Vermont’s entire park system, and every individual park, for future generations. We’re going to begin immediately by focusing on parks that will benefit most — recreationally, physically and financially — from re-visioning,” Gibbs said. “At the end of this process we will have a healthier, more environmentally and economically vibrant park system to pass on to future generations.”

What this means for park visitors:

2009 Parks Operation Changes

Allis: Day use only. Shelter use, group and individual day use still permitted and shelter reservations will continue to be accepted. Restroom in shelter area will be open. Camping not permitted. Campers with existing reservations will be contacted and offered a refund or the opportunity to move to another park.

Maidstone: Camping permitted as usual, except for the upper loop in Area A, which includes sites 23 - 31 and lean-tos sycamore, walnut, hornbeam, hickory, locust, chestnut, apple, aspen, elm, sumac, fir, and basswood. Customers with existing reservations will be contacted and offered a refund or a move to another site or park.

New Discovery: Will accommodate existing camping reservations. No new reservations taken. Camping will be first come – first served only. Horse camping will still be accommodated and no horse campers will be turned away. Park will continue to handle Kettle & Osmore Pond reservations.

North Hero: Day use only. Restroom in beach area will remain operational. Camping not permitted. Campers with existing reservations will be contacted and offered refund or move to another park.

Thetford: Day use only. Trails will continue to be maintained and will remain accessible. No facilities open. No camping permitted. Campers with existing reservations will be contacted and offered refund or move to another park.

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