MACo Policy Associate Alex Butler yesterday testified before the House Environment and Transportation Committee in opposition of HB 458 Program Open Space – Local Projects – Visitor Behavior Policies. This bill requires local governments to create a visitor behavior policy for parks and natural resources in order to be eligible for Program Open Space funding.
From the MACo Testimony:
The creation of a new and prescriptive policy would be burdensome for parks and recreation departments, and duplicative of other efforts at the local level. Under the bill, if local government does not submit a sufficient policy to the Department of Natural Resources, they are not able to access funding from Program Open Space − thereby depriving residents of important recreational and educational activities supported by their own tax dollars. Counties, of course, already have a variety of local policies and procedures related to visitor behavior and maintaining the vibrancy and integrity of their parks and natural resources. These range from prohibitions on littering to forbidding dangerous behaviors to restrictions on interaction with wildlife – in each case reflecting community needs, and those dictated by the nature of the park or reserved area.
Adding another layer of policy, and its stark enforcement provisions, would not necessarily provide additional benefit to residents but would require local governments to divert time and resources they could otherwise prioritize for park management.
Follow MACo’s advocacy efforts during the 2021 legislative session on MACo’s Legislative Tracking Database.