Parks fees could go up again this year

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:48

    AP-Fees at state parks, campsites and boat ramps may be going up again later this year to offset higher operating costs, including law enforcement staffing. The increases proposed by the state Department of Environmental Protection come just two years after the last fee increase. Most fees, such as those for camping cabin rentals, would increase by $5, Jose Fernandez, director the DEP's Division of Parks and Forestry, said Friday. Single-day park visit fees would stay the same, but some fees would rise significantly. For example, rental of a meeting hall at Jersey City's Liberty State Park would double to $2,000, Fernandez said. "It's an attempt to strike a balance between serving 15 million visitors each year and maintaining the level of service ... we want to present to New Jersey,'' he said. The last increase fell short of coping with the division's costs, he added. The division manages 11 state forests and 50 historic sites with 103 rangers. The ranger service is being restructured to take on a more law enforcement-based chain of command, and to increase salaries so that the parks division can retain rangers, who Fernandez said are often wooed by higher-paying local police departments. Trained rangers are licensed to carry firearms, and respond to such varied assignments as protecting natural resources, averting bear attacks, breaking up drug deals and monitoring activity at the national-security sensitive Liberty State Park across from Manhattan. "We have a pretty elite force,'' Fernandez said. ``We want to be able to retain the people we train.''