state parks

U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Brandon Valle

State Parks are opening this weekend to Wyoming residents only. To ensure that this is the case the Department of Outdoor Recreation and State Parks has instituted a reservation process that's only opened to Wyoming residents. Deputy Director Dave Glenn discusses the plan with Wyoming Public Radio's Bob Beck.

Laramie Range where it borders Medicine Bow National Forest
Robert Kirkwood

Five minutes from downtown Laramie, Melanie Arnett unlocks a gate. She pulls a truck through and we’re inside the 5,500-acre parcel of land that Laramie folks have been drooling to explore for years. I’m feeling pretty smug about my VIP pass.

“Right now, we’re looking right at Pilot Peak,” says Melanie Arnett, who was recently hired to serve as the Pilot Hill Land Project’s director. A local businessman, John Pope with Blue Sky Group, volunteered to pay her salary for now.

Wyoming State Parks, Historic Sites & Trails

A bill proposed in the Wyoming House of Representatives would redirect funds received from state park permits into a special revenue account. The purpose of the account would be to move a quarter of the funds back into general maintenance of Wyoming State Parks. This would give the state’s parks more control over how that money is spent. Right now roughly $500,000 goes into the general fund for construction projects.

Domenic Bravo is the State Parks administrator and says choosing maintenance over new construction projects can be a challenging ordeal.

Wyoming State Parks, Historic Sites & Trails

The Wyoming Senate has given initial support to a bill that would allow State Parks to use entrance fees on things besides major building projects.  But not everyone loves the idea. 

Senate Majority Floor Leader Phil Nicholas of Laramie said it was difficult to raise park fees to pay for important capital construction and major maintenance  projects and argued that it would be wrong to use the money for another purpose.

If Governor Matt Mead’s eight percent budget cuts go through, Wyoming’s state parks would have to make significant cuts in services and staffing. Milward Simpson is the Director of the Department of Parks, Historic Sites and Trails, and he says every state park would be affected.

"We’ll be doing less hiring if these budget cuts come to pass. We’re also going to eliminate a currently vacant position at Hotsprings State Park, and we’re going to be reducing all of our supply and operations and maintenance budgets across the board, around the state," Simpson says.

Wyoming’s state parks are getting fewer visitors than usual, and park officials say it’s probably because of the ban on campfires.

State Parks Chief of Operations Bill Westerfield says the decline in visitors will mean less money will be available for future improvements at parks and historic sites.

“The user fees – camping and day use fees – go into an enterprise account, and we use that money to build new facilities and to conduct major maintenance on the facilities we have,” Westerfield said.