Park access fee program to expand in December

From Staff Reports

   Six of Tennessee's state parks will be added to the access fee program beginning Dec. 1. Davy Crockett Birthplace, Nathan Bedford Forest, Meeman-Shelby Forest, T.O. Fuller, Rock Island and Cove Lake state parks will begin collecting fees to raise money for maintaining the state park system.
   According to Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation Commissioner Milton J. Hamilton Jr., the state has collected more than $300,000 since launching the program in February.
   "Because of the success of our pilot access fee program, we are moving forward to include new parks," Hamilton said. "These fees help us improve our maintenance and services without burdening the state budget."
   Tennessee law ensures that funds raised through fees go to a dedicated fund for the parks, rather than into the state general fund.
   Passes can be purchased at participating parks. The daily fee is $3 per vehicle holding up to eight people. Multi-visit passes can be purchased to get into any state park for $30 and a second vehicle at the same address can obtain a pass for $10.
   Other parks will be added to the access fee program as it becomes feasible. Parks are added based on ease of collection, number of entrances, ability to work with existing structures, personnel, park location, and other factors.
   Each participating park will have its own method of collection. Initially, visitors can expect to see unmanned, secured pay stations or automated machines. The parks also will feature an information center and rangers who monitor the areas to ensure compliance.
   Long Hunter State Park, Radnor Lake State Natural Area, Pinson Mounds State Archaeological Park, and Hiwassee/Ocoee Rivers State Park were the first to participate in the pilot project. Entrance fees already exist at 35 of the 50 state park systems across the nation. Tennessee was one of only two southeastern states that did not have fees in place.