AURORA, Colo. (CBS4) – Colorado’s booming population is having a major impact on our state parks.
The park system is seeing an increase in visitors, but revenue stays the same.
The Colorado Parks and Wildlife Department is struggling to make ends meet.
If something doesn’t change, officials say they’ll be facing a budget deficit of nearly $30 million every year in less than 10 years.
Right now the department is floating ideas, but they want the public to help figure out a permanent solution.
When it comes to enjoying all that Colorado has to offer most would agree the cost is pretty minimal.
According to CPW, a family can get into a state park for $7 for the entire day. You can fish for a year for under $40.
“If you hunt or fish or use one of our state parks you help fund us which is amazing the thing is we are limited in our ability to raise those fees,” says Jennifer Churchill, spokesperson for the department.
Churchill says with 41 state parks, 960 different species of wildlife and no state funding to help cover increasing costs, the department is facing a potential shortfall.
For months they’ve been brainstorming on how to address the issue by asking Coloradans to weigh in through a series of public meetings.
Suggestions right now include raising the cost of hunting and fishing licenses for residents and non-residents by about $5 a year, which hasn’t been done since 2006.
They’d also like to lose the revenue cap that is currently keeping state parks from increasing entrance fees.
“We have a lot of visitation we have a lot of people who love these parks and we need to maintain them,” says Churchill.
While most in attendance felt fee increases are necessary, many floated the idea of lifting some of the financial burden that falls on hunters and anglers.
“We need to look at making sure that everyone who is utilizing and benefiting from these wonderful resources is contributing in some way,” says a resident.
Parks and Wildlife has already cut $40 million in wildlife expenditures and 50 positions since 2009.
None of the ideas are final.