Top 10 reasons to pay your park fees

15 Jun

Finally!  It’s summer – time to spend time out in the woods, at the park, on the bike trail.  And time for a bit of a rant on nobody’s favorite recreational topic – park/trail fees.  Most of my friends enjoy the outdoors and appreciate having some natural places open for recreation – well, duh, otherwise they probably wouldn’t be joining me to recreate in the outdoors.  But the astounding thing is, even among the nature-loving crowd, there are numerous folks who don’t really want to pay usage fees for outdoor areas.  These range from the but-I’m-so-poor college student, to the oh-but-no-one-ever-checks-your-permit sneakers, to the no-one-can-charge-me-for-nature-that-belongs-to-everyone hippies, to the I-don’t-give-my-money-to-the-man punks.  None of these are bad people, in fact they’re all pretty reasonable.  But here’s the thing . . .

Of course nature belongs to us all, and yet is owned by no one.  It would be great to say that we can all freely use natural resources, and we’ll all be equally responsible stewards, and all important pieces of the natural puzzle will be maintained without permits to purchase or agencies to regulate.  But that’s simply not the me-first society we live in.  It would be great to avoid commoditizing nature and leave it free for all to enjoy.  But that’s simply not the ownership-based economy we live in.

Park / trail fees are important – they ensure that someone in charge gets a quantifiable measure of how much we appreciate the natural space we use – and they ensure that someone is paid to keep up the common area on our behalf.  So I submit to you –

The top 10 reasons to pay park / trail fees:

1 – It’s voting with dollars!  Every time you buy a trail pass or pay a park fee you let the folks in charge know that you value having parks and trails!

2 – Because if you aren’t willing to pay to keep natural places natural – someone else will pay to turn your paradise into a parking lot!

3 – Even with a fee, it’s cheapest date (or bonding activity) around.

4 – You appreciate things like maps, interpretive signs, ranger programs, picnic areas, and more.

5 – Be a good role model for that kid (or less responsible friend) you take hiking with you.

6 – Pitch in without really pitching in – feel less guilty about ignoring all those pleas for volunteer work days on the trail.

7 – Avoid a fine (really, wouldn’t it be just your luck to be that one person ever caught and punished for skipping out on park fees!).

8 – Earn hippy cred by collecting groovy parks stickers on your Subaru windshield.

9 – Earn rugged outdoors-man cred by collecting parks stickers on your pickup truck windshield.             (HA!  Look at that!  Double cred boost!)

10 – Most user fees are far less than that other crap you waste your money on.

My mom and I bonding via bike path in Utah.

And just in case you can’t decide what to do this weekend or where to use that newly purchased parks pass – here are some links to a few of my favorites near the Madison area:

Capital City Bike Trail – jump on right in town
Military Ridge Bike Trail – Grumpy Troll pub makes a great start or end point
Elroy – Sparta Bike Trail – spooky railroad tunnels are great to cool off on a hot day
Governor Nelson State Park – so close to town
Governor Dodge State Park – hills, lakes, and the end point of the MR bike trail
Devils Lake State Park – one of the only places around to scale a cliff
Wildcat Mountain State Park – great hiking and camping right on the gorgeous Kickapoo River


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