Governor's commission to study future of state parks

08/23/07 10:55AM By Ross Sneyd
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(Sneyd) The swingset, horseshoe pit and beach at Sand Bar State Park are popular even on a cool, overcast summer day.

Dave Hancock spent an afternoon playing horseshoes along the Lake Champlain shore with his two sons.

He says his family likes to camp at the state parks.

(Hancock) "They've made a lot of improvements, especially the facilities. A lot of upgrades. We're finding them to be a lot more enjoyable."

(Sneyd) But not everyone has had such a good experience in the 50 or so parks around Vermont.

Many of them date back to the 1930s and the days of the Civilian Conservation Corps.

There have been updates through the years, but some of the campsites and bath houses are getting old.

That's where the new commission comes in.

Win Smith is the president at Sugarbush. He'll be the co-chairman of the commission.

(Smith) "The reason this commission's been put together is to really take a good thorough review of what the parks are today, what their current condition is, to take a look at what the market is asking for, and then making sure we have that put together correctly."

(Snyed) That might involve rebuilding some facilities. Or it could be a matter of developing new programs for the parks.

The commission will spend the next 12 to 18 months exploring the parks, figuring out what works and what doesn't.

Modernizing the parks may be a case of many hands make light work.

The Vermont Youth Conservation Corps could be asked to pitch in. The Education Department may ask schools to offer programming ideas. And the Labor Department could help find people for electrical and plumbing work.

According to George Crombie, the Natural Resources Secretary, rustic isn't all bad.

(Crombie) "We're not trying to create Disney World in our parks. What we want people to have in our parks is a real experience with the environment, with outdoor recreation. That's really what we're looking at. We think it's a good thing that children spend some nights in a lean-to or in a tent. That's the kind of experience that we want people to have."

(Sneyd) Even if some of them are out of date, Vermont's state parks remain extremely popular: from kids building 'hot tubs' in the sand along Lake Champlain to nights spent under the stars in the mountains.

The new commission aims to make sure the fun continues for a long time.

For VPR News, I'm Ross Sneyd.

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