More Visitors, Fewer Barriers – State Park Investment Commission Sets Focus

The Maryland State Park Investment Commission recently decided its key focus areas: increasing visitors, removing barriers to access, updating staffing and funding policies, and handling climate change. 

Washington Monument State Park

After several hearings and internal rounds of discussion, the Maryland State Parks Commission has recently set four focus areas to help improve the state park system. These four areas include:

  • Increasing the number of visitors to state parks
  • Removing barriers to access
  • Alleviating staffing shortages and erratic funding
  • Managing Climate Change

According to Maryland Matters:

“With the state’s budgetary surplus and the prospect of a large stimulus of federal money, we have the opportunity…to reshape the park system and become a national model of accessibility and sustainability,” former Gov. Parris N. Glendening, chair of the State Park Investment Commission, told its members Tuesday.

One of the big questions arising from the Covid 19 pandemic is how the state determins park capicity. Many parks closed their gates and turned away visitors during the height of the pandemic. It is unclear if state officials just counted the number of parking places or used some more advanced formula.

Most state park funding comes from Program Open Space, which is funded by a share of the transfer tax on real estate. Between 2002 and 2018 the state diverted $1.4 billion meant for the program. As of today there remains some $600 million that has yet to be repayed. Maryland sets aside only 1% of it’s budget toward state parks, which places it in the back of the pack behind 35 other states nationally. 

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