Our Views: State parks in trouble

Louisiana’s reliance on tourism means that maintaining state parks should be a priority for the governor and lawmakers. These parks are an important way for visitors to enjoy Louisiana’s natural beauty, and state parks across Louisiana help attract tourists and boost local economies.

Sadly, years of state budget cuts have meant that the welcome mat offered by Louisiana’s state parks is getting threadbare. Because of those cuts, money that’s supposed to be used for park repairs and improvements is now being shifted to cover operational expenses.

Maintenance has suffered. Roads in some state parks are in bad shape, and some historic sites are now accessible only to occasional group tours made by appointment.

State officials recently implemented small increases in park admission and campsite fees, but the extra money will only help maintain a standstill budget.

Even with the increases, admission to state parks and campsites remains a bargain. Park admission will now be $2 — double what it used to be — and basic campsites are available for $14 a day. Children younger than 3 and seniors 62 and older can get in parks for free.

Given the challenges facing state parks, perhaps bigger increases in user fees should be considered to help keep the parks in shape. But raising fees can diminish attendance, and because these parks are a public trust, keeping them accessible to people of modest means is important.

That’s why we hope that the governor and lawmakers can find more money for state parks and historic sites in next year’s budget. A state park system in disrepair doesn’t live up to Louisiana’s promise as a sportsman’s paradise.