Photo from Maryland State Parks.

Commentary: State Park Investment Commission Vital As Visitorship Soars

08/16/2021
By Preservation Maryland

Preservation Maryland applauds Senate President Bill Ferguson and House Speaker Adrienne Jones for the creation of the new State Park Investment Commission. With visitorship reaching all-time highs in the last year, there has also been an unprecedented strain on the current state parks and their resources. Chaired by former Governor Parris N. Glendenning, the new commission will be tasked with making recommendations for improvements of current parks and the need for new parks in “recreational deserts.”

“Maryland’s state parks are being loved to death,” said Preservation Maryland’s President & CEO Nicholas Redding. “Rising numbers of visitors has meant that many of the state’s most popular parks reach capacity all too quickly. From the Eastern Shore to the foothills of Western Maryland, the same story is repeated nearly every weekend. I applaud Speaker Jones and President Ferguson on taking this proactive step, and Preservation Maryland stands ready to help the State Park Investment Commission in any way that we can.”

According to mobility data collected by Google (google.com/covid19/mobility), visitation to parks in Maryland is currently up more than 134% against the pre-pandemic baseline. For popular state parks with limited access, constricted public spaces and very few park rangers, this has meant parks turning away guests.

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Visiting a state park during COVID-19. Photo from the Maryland DNR.

At the same time, this influx of visitors has left a significant impact on the park resources themselves – from roads to bathrooms and pools – park infrastructure is in desperate need of investment. Additionally, the growth in visitation comes at a moment when park historic resources were already at their breaking point.

One of the top reasons people visit Maryland’s state parks is the historic resources. The Maryland Department of Natural Resources stewards more of the state’s historic and architectural resources than any other entity. Preservation Maryland has long recognized the threat to historic resources in Maryland’s state parks, and, through our Six-to-Fix program, has worked to help identify, document, and prioritize the needs of these resources in the face of a limited budget and large project backlog.

We look forward to continuing this work with the new commission.

Preservation Maryland

Preservation Maryland is Maryland’s first and largest organization dedicated to preserving the state’s historic buildings, neighborhoods, landscapes, and archaeological sites.

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