State parks give aid to help county parks with maintenance

Recreation — Senate Bill 1514 will re-distribute how fees are allocated between state and county parks


The Oregon Park and Recreation Department has agreed to collaborate with county park managers to more evenly share the proceeds from the state’s recreational vehicle registration fees.

That help will come in the form of Senate Bill 1514, which will shift some of the funding state parks receive from vehicle registration to county parks. County and state park currently share a 65/35 percent split, with county parks coming out on the short end of the funding.

That 35 percent figure means county parks in 36 counties across the state are dividing about $5 million annually. Yamhill County currently receives an estimated $66,000 per year, according to an OPRD report.

State and county parks have the same number of campsites, roughly about 5,000. So allocating the funds equally makes sense, said Steve Lambert, an Oregon State Park Association member.

The plan to help the county parks was submitted through the Oregon Solutions Team, the Association of Oregon Counties (AOC) and the Oregon Parks Association (OPA).

If SB 1514 passes in the Legislature the fees shared between state and county parks will shift to a 60/40 percent ratio. Another adjustment would occur in July 2015, according to a press release.

County parks in Oregon have been struggling to cover the cost of maintenance over the past several decades. Thirty years ago, when the parks were developed, federal timber sales provided a substantial part of funding. Since then the decline of logging on federal lands has resulted in decreased financial support to counties and, as a result, Oregon counties have an estimated $80 million backlog in maintenance, according to a 2012 report from EcoNorthwest.

Passage of the bill could mean an estimated $3.2 million influx of funding to “chip away at deferred maintenance lists across the state,” said Tillamook County Commissioner Mark Labhart.

Senate Bill 1514 had been declared an emergency, meaning it could be fast tracked for approval in the Legislature. The Rural Communities and Economic Development Com­mittee unanimously referred the bill to the Joint Committee of Ways and Means. The bill currently sits with the Joint Subcommittee on Natural Resources.

“We have only heard good things. No one in the Legislature opposes the bill so far,” Lambert said.

Yamhill County could receive an additional $19,000 from the passage of the bill. Most of the state’s county parks need assistance with their buildings, infrastructure and electrical lines, although current maintenance issues have not kept parks from being opening.