North Carolina's state parks are limping into a new budget year with a 25 percent cut from the legislature, growing hordes of visitors and a sense that things could be worse.
As states struggle with deficits, the nation's parks are under siege. California will close 70 of its 278 parks. Washington state withdrew all its state support. Ohio plans to allow oil and gas drilling in its parks.
No North Carolina parks or recreation areas are expected to close. But visitors will pay more to camp, swim or picnic, because of fee increases. They'll find fewer rangers and more peeling paint.
"You can only nail, hammer and paint so much," said Shederick Mole, superintendent of Jordan Lake State Recreation Area in Chatham County.
The park system also will lose millions from the trust fund that has helped it grow by about 5,000 acres a year since 1996. The fund is still paying off two landmark additions, the Chimney Rock and Grandfather Mountain tourist attractions. Little will be left this year.
As the state park budget is reduced over the next few years, less money will be available for parks to renovate and remodel existing buildings..
"Every park is trying to put their bid in the same pot," Mole said.
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