As the state legislature prepares to get down to business, we have a suggestion for them to consider immediately: Implement a fee for state park beach admission.

It's been obvious that the state is in a fiscal quandary. There are talks about cost cutting measures.

A fee at state parks could potentially make such recreational areas financially self-sufficient.

At state parks, there is major on-going maintenance required for the beaches and related facilities. There are costs involved in getting the facilities ready for the summer season. Currently admission to state parks is free. It should be that the people who use the facilities should be paying a share of those costs.

We're not talking about charging hikers on nature trails. And, fishermen and boaters do pay their share with boat license fees and fishing licenses.

Beaches require clean-up personnel, general repair maintenance, security, and water testing. A fee is appropriately charged at community swimming pools and at county-owned venues such as Mauch Chunk Lake Park, and the set-up works very well. It doesn't seem right that the state, gasping financially, should maintain such recreational facilities totally free of charge when there's a legitimate opportunity to attain some income from them.

A nominal fee wouldn't be a hardship on swimmers. They pay for the gas in their cars to come to the facility, often coming to Beltzville State Park from 50-plus miles away. Many pay turnpike fees.

The fee wouldn't have to be charged year-round. Basically it would be for the beach during the summer months. And it obviously wouldn't be exhorbitant.

It's not asking too much for the users to pay such a fee. With state budget cuts happening everywhere, it's not fair to ask taxpayers who don't use these recreational facilities to pay for those who do.

By RON GOWER

rgower@tnonline.com