Funding Tourism Advertising, But Closing 5 State Parks (Including Mason Neck)

As part of Governor McDonnell’s plans to cut the budget deficit, he proposes to close five state parks: Caledon (King George County), False Cape (Virginia Beach), Mason Neck (Fairfax County), Staunton River Battlefield (Halifax and Charlotte counties), and Twin Lakes Park (Prince Edward County).

At the same time, the governor proposes to increase tourism promotion by $3.6 million in FY11, and another $3.6 million in FY12.   Closing five of the prime state-owned tourism sites while advertising for tourists?  Does it make sense to shut down state-managed attractions, while spending scarce tax dollars to recruit more people to visit Virginia? 

That suggests the governor’s focus is to steer visitors to commercial attractions such as Kings Dominion and Luray Caverns, or to have the Federal government provide natural areas for outdoor recreation.  (Some historic sites such as Mount Vernon and Monticello are managed by private businesses/organizations, and some small natural areas managed by The Nature Conservancy are open to the public.)

The strangest place proposed for closure is right here in Northern Virginia – nearly 90,000 people visited Mason Neck State Park last year.  Based on the economic models that calculate the impacts of tourism, that one state park generated $500,000 in visitor spending in Northern Virginia.   The annual Eagle Festival has grown into a spectacular family-friendly event, and the Hartwell Environmental Education Center provides valuable educational opportunities, especially for those being home schooled.

Closing Mason Neck and other parks is penny-wise and pound-foolish… or worse.  The next step after closing a state park?  One risk: the state could declare the land to be “surplus” and sell it for a short-term revenue gain.


1 comment so far

  1. khosen on

    According to CNBC, the budget bills forwarded today [Feb. 21] by the House Appropriations and Senate Finance committees include keeping open the five parks McDonnell proposed to close to the public.

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