It's a fact that the state is in serious financial trouble, and that major budget cuts have occurred.

The budget for state parks dropped to $55 million last year, less than half of what it was just four years ago in the 2007-08 budget.

There has been past discussion that some state parks could eventually be closed.

Yet, for whatever reason, lawmakers still are stubbornly refusing to institute a charge for some activities at state parks such as swimming.

They levy high taxes on gasoline, they put taxes on most of the consumer goods we purchase, the airports have so many taxes that these taxes sometimes exceed the actual ticket price of the flight.

Yet, state parks remain free for all usage despite growing costs to maintain and operate them.

We understand hiking trails and certain other aspects of the state parks should remain free of an admission charge. But there should be a fee imposed for swimming.

Visit any municipal swimming pool and you have to pay a fee. Even Mauch Chunk Lake Park, operated by the county, has a swimming fee.

Charging a fee at state parks would provide the state with much needed operating revenue to keep the parks open.

It would also cover some of the expenses involved in operating the swimming areas of the parks, things like water testing, park service patrols, and clean-up.

There has been some discussion about privatizing some state parks. If this were the case, there likely would be charges assessed for some recreational activities, but the state wouldn't benefit.

Penn's Woods is a gift to all Pennsylvanians.

It's a gift, though, that has with it major expenses. If you get a car as a gift, you know you must pay for the upkeep.

Why don't state lawmakers accept the fact that money needed to keep state parks open should come from the users.

It's common sense.

By Ron Gower

rgower@tnonline.com