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Did you visit a Montana state park last year? If so, you helped our state parks system break a new record. Last year, our state parks system enjoyed over 3 million visitors. That broke the previous record, set the year prior, by over 24%.

It’s great to see so many people enjoying our parks and public lands and access sites. But with the massive influx of visitors and new residents, parks are stressed to the breaking point. Quite frankly, funding for basic maintenance and staffing simply has not kept pace with demand.

We are, however, in luck. Last November, voters approved I-190 which directs an additional $2.145 million annually to address the critical backlog of infrastructure investment needed (estimated at over $20 million) as well as providing better amenities and support to our hardworking state park managers.

This month, state lawmakers in Helena are deciding if our parks will receive this much needed investment. Unfortunately, there is proposed legislation to divert those funds to other priorities that voters have yet to agree to. Our legislators are at a pivotal moment facing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to allocate this critical new revenue to state parks, trails, fishing access sites and public lands as Montana voters intended.

It should be an easy decision. Montanans overwhelmingly support state parks and adequately caring for them. The I-190 ballot that allocated new resources for public lands, state parks, trails and fishing access sites passed by a decisive 57%. Now, we need to work with our lawmakers to ensure these dollars actually to go to our parks, trails, and developed recreation amenities.

Investments in our state parks are not only investments in the basic infrastructure and staffing necessary to maintain their special character for all to enjoy, but these investments directly benefit rural Montana communities. Many parks are in close proximity to rural areas and can provide economic development opportunities and boost local tourism.

Supporting state parks is a proven bipartisan issue, and lawmakers now have an opportunity to build on their accomplishments from previous sessions. Investing in our state parks will ultimately enhance our way of life, provide new outdoor access and recreation opportunities for our kids, and realize the outside in us all.

This summer, when making weekend plans, go visit a Montana state park and revel in the magic that is our state park system. While there, thank a park employee and hopefully, hopefully, by then we will have solved this pressing financial issue by ensuring I-190 revenue goes to supporting our fabulous state parks.

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Stace Lindsay of Bozeman is the Former Chair of the Montana Parks in Focus Commision and Angie Grove of Helena is the Former Chair of the State Parks & Recreation Board.

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