House restores state parks funding

Posted: Wednesday, April 07, 2004

The prospect of state cabin closures and private park management has disappeared with a House amendment restoring $350,000 to the parks budget.

The amendment, passed Monday, was sponsored by Reps. Bill Stoltze, R-Chugiak, Mike Hawker, R-Anchorage, and John Harris, R-Valdez.

"I am grateful that the House has taken this action to avert the possible closure of state park facilities and campgrounds," Stoltze said in a prepared statement.

The cut could have resulted in the closure of Cowee Meadow and Blue Mussel cabins at Point Bridget State Park north of Juneau, along with the historic House of Wickersham in downtown Juneau.

Gov. Frank Murkowski's budget proposal removes $169,000 in funding for parks, which the state said it would handle by private management of a few state parks outside of Southeast.

"Our park system is one of Alaska's crown jewels," said Rep. Hawker. "While fiscal discipline is a vital component of our financial policy, we must also provide the funding needed to protect these great resources and support the services and facilities used by Alaskans and our visitors alike."

Last week State Parks Director Gary Morrison said the Parks Division was considering closing some cabins and placing others under "passive management status," where cabins are not maintained by the state.

In all, Morrison said, the Parks Divisions was considering putting 33 parks under private management.

Rep. Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski, in an effort to reduce the state budget, cut 10 percent from the Department of Natural Resources budget in February.

Last week he returned funding to most divisions in the resources department but left the 10 percent cut to parks.

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