By Rick Sallinger

GOLDEN, Colo. (CBS4) – A lot of people spent the Fourth of July visiting Colorado’s 42 state parks.

It was a beautiful day to visit a state park — a 4th fit for bicycling, catching a fish or just plain hiking.

The entrance fees we pay are used to maintain the parks, but at Golden Gate Canyon State Park on Monday CBS4’s Rick Sallinger had no trouble finding cars with no indication of payment.

(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

There is one manned entrance booth in the park, which is located west of Golden. The others are pretty much on visitors’ honor. Everyone is supposed to deposit the money in an envelope and put the pass in their window.

“Oh, are you supposed to pay? I had better find where you pay, then,” a man in a sports car told Sallinger.

The fee applies even if you are just riding on some of the park roads.

(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

CBS4 found park rangers patroling the parking lots at Golden Gate for violators on Monday. One car had a pass but it was years old.

Dan Weber, who manages the park, estimates 80 percent do pay, but that of course means 20 percent don’t. Sometimes there are legitimate reasons, he says.

“They may not have the correct change. They may not carry cash. A lot of people use plastic these days,” he said.

CBS4's Rick Sallinger interviews Dan Weber (credit: CBS)

CBS4’s Rick Sallinger interviews Dan Weber (credit: CBS)

That means there are a lot of empty windshields where there should be annual or daily passes visible.

Ken Stern, a park visitor with a group that had an annual pass, told CBS4 “People need to pay their fair share and they are taking advantage of an apparently lax system.”

And if they don’t pay, they may get a ticket for $27.50.

In addition to the entrance fees, state parks are also funded in part by proceeds from the Colorado Lottery.

CBS4’s Rick Sallinger is a Peabody award winning reporter who has been with the station more than two decades doing hard news and investigative reporting. Follow him on Twitter @ricksallinger.

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