WV State Lawmakers review funding for state parks - WOWK 13 Charleston, Huntington WV News, Weather, Sports

WV State Lawmakers review funding for state parks

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West Virginia state lawmakers are looking to increase funding for state parks. West Virginia state lawmakers are looking to increase funding for state parks.

West Virginia's state parks draw big crowds looking to unwind or explore its mountains, rivers and lakes. Last year, the state's parks attracted more than 6.6 million visitors. However, the parks' eye-catching scenery is mixed with unkempt and outdated structures that state lawmakers would like to fix by increasing the budget for the parks. 

"I have a favorite trail that I hike," said Sarah Francke of Charleston, West Virginia.

"I come here because it is relaxing," said Abel Walker of Elkview, West Virginia.

Whether it's biking, fishing, hiking or playing, West Virginia's state parks have a lot to offer.

"I like seeing the trees and fishing," said Wyatt Albersten of Charleston, West Virginia."It is a really nice, wild habitat. That's why I like it so much. It's peaceful."

State lawmakers preparing for the 2014 legislative session are looking at funding options for the state's parks. In total, West Virginia has 35 parks, seven forests, five wildlife management areas and two rail trails. While the parks have generated $127 million of economic activity, the cost of repairs and maintenance totals tens of millions of dollars.

"I enjoy coming here but I don't enjoy stepping on rocks or fallen trees," said Walker.

West Virginia is among a few states that do not charge an entry fee into it's parks. However, the parks charge visitors for using cabins, campsites and lodges. Last year there were over 800,000 overnight visitors.

13 News went to the Kanawha State Forest to see if visitors would mind paying an entry fee. Some of the people interviewed said they would pay an entry fee while others said they would refuse to.

"If people are coming here to enjoy it, who pay for other things [they] like, why not pay to have this place maintained, you know," said Walker.

"You can come here anytime you want," said Andy Gorgby of Ohio. If there is an entry fee "and if you don't have the money, you may not come."

Nearly 20 of the park system's buildings are 75 years or older and are in need of repairs. Currently the parks have a budget of $38.7 million, financed in part by general revenue and lottery funds as well as with self-generated money.

"I would pay the fee but I don't think everyone would," said Francke. "It should be more like a donation box. If you are able to contribute then that would be appreciated."