State parks need your support

If you support Missouri’s state parks system, please vote next month.

The Parks, Soils, and Water Sales Tax will be on the Nov. 8 ballot to reaffirm voter support of the state parks system and soils and water conservation efforts.

The tax is set to expire if not renewed by voters in 2016.

“Every 10 years it goes to the people for a vote and has been very popular,” said Missouri State Rep. Bill Reiboldt (R-Neosho).

The Parks, Soils, and Water Sales Tax is a statewide one-tenth of one percent sales tax that provides funding for Missouri state parks, historic sites, and soil and water conservation efforts.

The tax is divided equally between the two efforts.Print

The state parks system is operated by Missouri State Parks.

“I think this (the tax) is a great thing and I’m in favor of it,” said Reiboldt. “Both the

Missouri parks system and soil and water conservation get at least $75 million from the tax.”

The Parks, Soils, and Water Sales Tax was first approved by voters in 1984, and has been renewed by voters three times in 1988, 1996, and 2006. The tax was renewed by more than two-thirds majority of Missouri voters.

“There are 114 counties in Missouri and each county has a soil and water conservation district that work on projects to keep soil on the ground and out of our waters,” said Brandon Butler, with Conservation Federation of Missouri.

“I know they have saved tons of soil from erosion in this part of Missouri because of our agricultural efforts with the soil and water conservation groups,” said Reiboldt.

Unlike most states, there are no entrance or day-use fees in Missouri state parks. The public can enter every state park and historic site at no charge.

The tax allows staff to provide services directly to visitors by maintaining parks and historic sites, upgrading facilities and assisting guests.

“Who doesn’t like our state parks? We have some really beautiful parks here in Missouri and it takes a lot of time and resources in improving them every year for visitors,” said Reiboldt.

There have been several new initiatives that focus on engaging youth in the wonder of the outdoors. In 2014 alone, nearly 55,000 interpretive programs were presented in Missouri state parks and historic sites.

In addition, they have also offered new services to guests including:
• Lodging opportunities such as yurts and camper cabins.
• Upgraded campground amenities, including shower houses.
• Expanded recreational resources from additional miles of trail to new opportunities to kayak and canoe.

The consistent funding from the sales tax has allowed Missouri State Parks to maintain and upgrade the state park system to better serve the needs of visitors and protect resources.

These repairs include renovating and maintaining buildings, restrooms, shelter houses and cabins while also stabilizing and protecting historic structures.

Some examples of this work are:
• Cabin renovations at Montauk State Park.
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• Restoration of the historic Civilian Conservation Corps Alta Shelter at Dr. Edmund A. Babler Memorial State Park.

In order to provide more opportunities for the public to experience nature and explore history, the tax funding helps support the development of new state parks and historic sites.

The most recent example of this is Battle of Island Mound State Historic Site, which opened in 2012. That site marks the first time African-American troops were engaged in Civil War combat.

Missouri State Parks also manages a wide variety of structures and facilities throughout the state, including:
• 49 regulated public water systems.
• More than 2,000 structures.
• 260 miles of paved roadway.
• More than 130 shelters.
• 96 wastewater systems.
• More than 3,500 campsites.
• 1,000 miles of trail.

More than 18 million people visit the state park system each year, and Missouri State Parks consistently receives a 97 percent approval rating from guests.

Missouri’s state parks and historic sites also contribute to a healthy state and local economy.

Results of an economic impact study released in 2012 estimated that annual expenditures of state park visitors total approximately $778 million.

The overall economic impact of these expenditures is estimated at $1.02 billion in sales, $307 million in payroll and related income, and $123 million in federal, state and local taxes.

The visitors’ expenditures provide 14,535 jobs and for every dollar spent by Missouri State Parks to operate the state park system, Missouri’s economy sees a $26 return on investment.

In order to continue to operate an outstanding system of state parks and historic sites, ongoing repairs, maintenance and improvements are necessary.

Missouri State Parks is committed to providing a high level of visitor services. To accomplish this goal, there must be enough staff to provide clean and safe facilities; enough interpreters to present the significance of each of the parks and sites; enough law enforcement personnel to ensure visitor safety; and enough general staff to provide adequate service to the public.
“This is something that we, as voters, need to pass. I wouldn’t know how else they would get their funding without it,” said Reiboldt.

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