It's been so cold lately it's hard to think of anything else but keeping warm.

State lawmakers are back in session and hopefully they will think ahead a little to spring.

Spring is when swimming season returns to state parks like Beltzville. Although the lawmakers complain about how tight the state budget is, they continue totally subsidizing these recreational facilities.

It seems every year we suggest that lawmakers impose either an admission fee or parking fee for the park. The recommendation always falls on deaf ears.

It's hard to understand why.

There is a lot of maintenance at state parks. There are costs for park ranger services. There are clean-up costs. Water has to be tested regularly, also at a cost. All these expenses are passed onto taxpayers.

Why not assess a fee to the users of these parks, especially to those who utilize the beaches?

State lawmakers recently agreed they must get funding to make major road repairs. So, they imposed additional taxes on gasoline so the users of the highways must pay for the repairs.

The same should happen regarding state parks.

If this coming Memorial Day weekend, Fourth of July weekend, and Labor Day weekend are like those in the past, Beltzville State Park will be overflowing with people. State police will be summoned for crowd and traffic control. Local police will be called in to help. Again, this is all at the expense of general taxpayers.

Why not impose a nominal fee on those who come to the park?

Go to a sporting event, a fair, even fire company car shows, and you pay to park.

Yet, at state parks, you not only can park for free, you can use the beach and leave the litter to the park personnel to clean up.

Why don't lawmakers get it? What's so hard to understand?

If you want to utilize a facility, you should have to pay your fair share.

Lawmakers a few years ago were determined to make some interstate highways toll roads in Pennsylania. Fortunately, the federal government wouldn't let them have their way. State parks is a method of getting some extra revenue for the state.

Why should all taxpayers have to shoulder the bill for these facilities? Why not just make those who capitalize on the recreational aspects be made to pay?

You have to pay a fee if you want to hunt and fish.

It's only fair that lawmakers finally get the throngs of people who crowd the beaches to pay a fee to use them.

By RON GOWER

rgower@tnonline.com