ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Cities and towns around state parks are pleading for help from the legislature. They want to raise state park fees by a dollar, so they can keep up the roads and emergency departments that serve these state treasures.
Officials and residents in small communities like Eagle Nest and Elephant Butte said they need this extra help to offset the costs that come with the crowd.
“As with dogs and fleas and mushrooms and trees, state parks must support a healthy symbiotic relationship with its surrounding communities, as it does no good to kill the host,” said Representative Tara Jaramillo (D-Socorro), sponsor of this bill.
“We’re not asking to take money that they already have away. We’re asking to add a dollar to the current fee. So, we’re not asking to take anything from the park. We’re just asking them to add that dollar to help us out,” said Elephant Butte Fire Chief John Mascaro.
Representative Jaramillo used Elephant Butte as an example, saying the city doesn’t benefit from Gross Receipts Tax because most park visitors bring their own food and camp there. However, she said the city does have to deal with trash and sewer clean-up costs. Jaramillo also said emergency services are burdened by the increased calls for help.
There was opposition from lawmakers and park officials, saying they don’t believe charging more is the answer.
“We certainly feel that our communities need more funding, and they need that assistance for their infrastructure, but not necessarily off of a fee increase from New Mexico State Parks,” said New Mexico State Parks Division Director Toby Velasquez.
“I see where we want to get out, get people out to the state parks, but I think we’re going the wrong avenue with this because we’re trying to suck money off somebody that’s already hurting so bad,” explained Representative Martin Zamora, (R-Clovis.)
Jaramillo pointed out that fees have not been raised in more than 20 years. However, a legislative analysis of this bill shows this fee would only generate around $600,000 a year—something critics don’t think is enough to meaningfully benefit the communities near our 35 state parks.
This bill was tabled Wednesday morning; lawmakers said they recognize the need in these communities but think there has to be a different solution.