The secretary of the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks touted the current park funding bill to a few legislators Thursday evening at the Clinton Lake Marina.
Touring the wildlife area, Secretary Mike Hayden, who also is a former Kansas governor, rode a boat around the lake for about 20 minutes with legislators and Wildlife and Parks Commissioner Gerald Lauber, of Topeka.
Senate Bill No. 87 would make park admission free at Clinton Lake and all 22 other state parks in exchange for a $4 increase in annual motor vehicle registration fees for all Kansas vehicles.
"Our current revenue streams are not adequate to keep these parks up properly," Hayden said.
The bill now is before the Kansas Senate after an amendment last session that decreased the fee from $5, and Hayden said he hoped it would pass in the next session, particularly after Kansas Atty. Gen. Phill Kline's office issued an opinion that the fee was legal.
Currently, daily vehicle permits in Kansas state parks are $6.50 from April 1 through Sept. 30, and $5.50 from Oct. 1 through March 31.
Clinton State Park manager Jerry Schecher said the new plan would allow him to pursue projects such as improvements to several campsite buildings and other structures at the park, which attracts about 500,000 visitors per year.
Lately, Schecher has held off on larger maintenance projects as the state has lost revenue from the current system because of fewer visitors than expected.
Revenue from the new plan is estimated to be $8.8 million to cover for the decrease in visitors the past two years and the $1.66 million appropriated from the state's general fund for fiscal year 2006, said Jerry Hover, the state's parks division director.
One legislator at Clinton Lake on Thursday said he saw a need for the registration fees because many senior park users had trouble paying for every visit.
"We'll just have to see how it goes," said Rep. Harold Lane, D-Topeka. "Hopefully, there will be support for it."
Thursday's event was the second of three around the state this week that Hayden and other park officials held for legislators.