Tuesday, May 7, 2013

A Few Thoughts About State Parks

And what the Civilian Conservation Corps did for you.

It's hard to believe how much of an impact the CCC had on our National and State parks. Eighty years later , and you can still see the handiwork of the young men who volunteered to work as government mules in exchange for meals , shelter , and $22.00-25.00 dollars a month of which a large portion had to be sent home. That's chump change by today's standards , but I'm sure it was welcome economic relief following the years of the Great Depression. These fine young men made a lasting impact on many aspects of America as we know it today , notably : infrastructure , early soil erosion projects , and park facilities. You may not know it , but you've probably been fairly close to a CCC project (<= map) in the last month , if not the last week , depending on where you live. They laid the foundations for our park systems when conservation and environmentalism were in their infancy. I am always impressed by the longevity of their works , and rightfully so.

The area I live in has several parks that bear the trademark of CCC construction : native stone work on facilities and roads , mature trees planted for erosion control , picnic shelters , stone dams , lodge style cabins, etc. I could go on and on , but you get the idea. It was a pretty standard formula for parks , and you'll see many similarities between parks in just about every state where the CCC was active. Certainly , not all of their original work remains , but the number of projects still visible in their nearly original form is significant. Not to say that improvements and maintenance haven't occurred , but rather that the CCC gave us a good foundation to work from , a huge head start for making places where we can enjoy the great outdoors with our families in relative comfort. The legacy they left behind is nothing short of impressive , especially when you consider how the work was done without a lot of the heavy equipment we see today.

How the times have changed! Somewhere along the way , we lost sight of the original intention of the park system , and it turned into a source of revenue , rather than a way to preserve our beautiful places and create opportunities for recreation.

What on earth does this have to do with fishing? Quite a lot , actually , at least in my opinion. It's my belief that fishermen shoulder more of the burden of upkeep and improvements to our parks , without getting anything in return. Other groups pay less for more services and cause more damage by way of wear and tear than your average weekend angler ever will. Not that some other groups , like campers , don't pay extra fees to enjoy the parks , but rather that they get more bang for their buck than I do.

Think about it : someone with a huge tow behind camper decides they want to move their little house into a state park for the weekend , they pay on average probably $25.00 per night here in VA. The perks that come with their nightly pass include (in most cases) parking for 2 vehicles , potable water , electricity , a fire pit , a lantern hanger , access to bathroom and shower facilities , and use of the pump out station on their way out of the park. Factor in wear and tear on the parks roads and it is quite a deal indeed! I'm OK with that , and happy that campers are able to get such a bargain because I do camp occasionally , but it doesn't make it right.

Here's a breakdown of my weekend fishing expense (one day , for about 5 hours) , with my family : parking $3.00 for one vehicle , daily fishing fee for my wife and I $18.00 ($9.00 each). What we got in return : one bass , one bluegill , use of a picnic table for lunch , a little time on the playground equipment for my kids , and parking at an out of the way spot a good way from the water. Spots closer to the water were reserved for Winnebagos  and park employees. I'm also required to have a state fishing license , and depending on the season , a trout license. Sure , the license allows me to fish statewide , but why the extra fee when the water here is as average as everywhere else? The fishing fee is supposed to cover stocking of the lake , and I'm sure it does contribute , but I question how much of "fishing" fees , licenses  , and boat launch fees are diverted to other areas of park maintenance , or even entirely out of the park system? Privately held fee fishing areas are usually teeming with fish , so what gives? I pay the fees , and cross my fingers hoping that at least some of it goes towards things that benefit me as a fisherman , but I have my doubts.

I won't claim to know the inner workings of park budgets , or even fish and game management. I will say that it's a good thing that some of our parks were built eighty years ago by the CCC , because they would never be built today , even with the huge amount of money the parks undoubtedly bring in each year. It saddens me to see parks going downhill while fees continue to rise. It's also a tough pill to swallow when I pay more just to take my kids fishing , and get less in return.

Maybe my expectations are too high.

Leave a comment about your opinion on fair usage fees at our National and State parks , and we'll try to continue the discussion in another post!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Let's hear what YOU have to say...