DNEC’s Division of Parks and Recreation has received approval by DNREC Secretary David Small to implement certain new user fee increases which will go into effect in February.
As enacted by the Delaware General Assembly, passed in the FY15 Bond and Capital Improvement Act (HB 425), the Division held three open houses in each county in December to receive public input on the fee increases, including daily entrance fees, annual park passes and surf permits. Feedback from the open houses indicated overwhelming support for the increases. Further, based on a follow-up survey, more than 84 percent of respondents supported the increases. In addition, the Parks and Recreation Advisory Council unanimously approved the fee increases at their December meeting.
Delaware’s state parks are primarily self-funded, with 65 percent of revenue to operate and maintain the parks generated by park users. The collection of user fees has been affected by numerous outside influences, including economic downturns, bad weather, increased visitor service costs and vacation patterns of visitors. Overall, the fee increases are expected to generate a total of $1.1 million in additional annual revenue for Delaware’s state parks.
“Delaware State Parks has maintained a high level of public service without adjusting fees for the last 10 years,” said Ray Bivens, director of the Division of Parks and Recreation. “Current user fees haven’t kept up with the cost of maintaining the parks we manage. The Division currently has crucial projects that cannot be started or completed due to lack of funding. Many of these directly affect park users, such as aging bathhouses or lack of electric access in campgrounds, which affect both visitors and the Division’s revenue. We currently have a $100 million backlog in maintenance and capital projects, and we have had to borrow money to address major utility repairs at heavily-visited parks,” said Bivens.
The new fee increases will go into effect Sunday, Feb. 15. Delaware resident annual passes will increase from $27 to $35. Those 62 years and older will pay $18 for an annual pass. Lifetime passes, available to those 65 and older, will increase from $50 to $65. The military pass will increase to $17.50. The Assistance Program pass (for low-income residents) will not increase; it remains at $10.
Surf fishing permits will also increase on Feb. 15. Delaware residents will see an increase of $15, to $80 for a one-year tag, and a $30 increase – to $160 – for a two-year tag. Seniors will receive a $10 deduction from the one-year tag, and a $20 deduction on the two-year tag.
Entrance fees are collected from March 1 to Nov. 30. Day passes for Delawareans will increase $1. At the ocean parks, Delaware visitors will pay $5 per vehicle, and $4 at inland parks.