Budget cuts force agency to raise all fees
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — Colorado State Parks officials say they are cutting discounts for seniors 64 and older “out of necessity,” because of state budget cuts.
The Colorado State Parks Board voted last week to reduce the discounts, affecting the Aspen Leaf Annual Pass and on Aspen Leaf camping fees. The prices of an Aspen Leaf Lifetime Pass, created by the Colorado Legislature, will also increase.
The Aspen Leaf discounts will be reduced because Colorado State Parks will receive no general tax dollars and substantially less support from severance tax dollars as of July 1, 2011, according to Gary Butterworth, chairman of the Colorado State Parks Board.
“We value all park visitors and have reluctantly reduced discounts for seniors to address the state’s budget cuts,” Butterworth said. “Reducing the Aspen Leaf discounts for seniors is a last resort. We tried to protect the senior discounts as long as possible, just as we have tried to avoid park closures. We approved these reductions purely out of necessity.”
To prepare for the loss of general tax and severance tax dollars, the Parks Board approved a financial plan in November 2010, including ten strategies to reduce spending and increase revenues. Reducing the Aspen Leaf discounts was one of those strategies slated to be implemented this year.
Colorado State Parks has raised fees for all park visitors in the last few years to offset the dramatic drop in funding from the legislature. During that time, Colorado State Parks continued to offer seniors a 50 percent discount on the Aspen Leaf Annual Pass.
Starting June 30, 2011, Colorado residents 64 years and older will receive a $10 discount on the Aspen Leaf Annual Pass, which will cost $60. The fee for the standard annual pass is $70. Seniors will receive a $3 discount on all camping, from tent sites to full service RV hookups, Sunday through Thursday evenings, excluding holidays.
The Lifetime Pass was created by the Legislature with the fee amount, set by the Parks Board, not to exceed five times the cost of the Aspen Leaf Annual Pass. Under the increase, the Aspen Leaf Annual Pass will cost $60 and the charge for the Lifetime Pass will be $300.
While these discounts aren’t as low as those offered by the National Park Service and the U.S. Forest Service, both those agencies receive support from the federal budget. Nationally, 22 other states do not offer any discount on state park fees to seniors.
For additional information, please visit the Colorado State Parks website.