(The Center Square) – With additional funding in the coming fiscal year, Maryland state parks will be seeing improvements that will include investments in infrastructure, personnel, and new sites.

The Free State will see a $70 budget for the fiscal year 2023, a $13.7 million increase over last year’s $57.3 million, said Gregg Bortz, media relations manager for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

“It is also important to note that Maryland parks have a long legacy – some exceeding 100 years old. This legacy investment will allow us to care for the lands entrusted with and ready them for the next 100 years,” he told The Center Square.

Bortz called the additional funding “significant” for the parks system, noting it will fund more than a dozen new positions over the next couple of years and provide for critical maintenance and new projects and land acquisitions in different parts of the state.

Even before the pandemic, Maryland parks saw an increase in usage, Bortz said. COVID-19 ratcheted up the number of visitors.

“Visitation grew even stronger as families sought fun and educational activities that were safe during the pandemic,” he said. “When others closed their doors, we opened our gates.”

Bortz praised state park staff for their handling of the pandemic and increased visitation.

“Our dedicated park staff are consummate professionals and immediately adopted pandemic protocols to keep our staff and our visitors safe while juggling the demands of increased visitation,” he said. “With increased visitation comes increased wear and tear. Again, the record investment we are receiving will help us address that.”

Parks with swimming or access to water saw particularly high traffic, Bortz added.

Not only will people benefit from the funding with additional rangers, customer service staff, and new interpretive facilities, but animals and the natural areas will also see gains.

“For the natural resources we protect, we will be able to increase and enhance our conservation measures and develop more partnerships that help us protect our wildlife, trails, and natural areas,” Bortz said.

Invasive species control and landscape restoration will receive funding attention to help with that, he said.


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