PARKERSBURG - Discussions in the West Virginia Legislature about charging entry fees at state parks will not affect Mountwood Park, representatives said on Sunday.
Mountwood is not a state park and receives funding through the Wood County Commission, fundraisers and rental income, according to Bob Buchanan, president of the board at Mountwood Park.
The state is studying options for the upkeep of the state park system, which includes 35 parks, seven forests, five wildlife management areas and two rail trails. Among options is to add a gate to the entrance of each park where admissions would be charged.
Delegate John Ellem, R-Wood, said he would be opposed to entrance fees to any state park including the only one close by, North Bend State Park in Cairo.
Parks should charge for staying at their lodges, cabins and campsites, he said. There were about 800,000 overnight visitors in 2012 at West Virginia parks.
Buchanan said the county park would probably not be allowed to charge to enter. The park receives funding through the county commission and various events throughout the year, including Volcano Days, he said.
At A Glance
* Mountwood Park not affected by proposal before the West Virginia Legislature to charge an entry few to state parks.
* The state is studying options for the upkeep of the state park system, which includes 35 parks, seven forests, five wildlife management areas and two rail trails.
* The park receives funding through the county commission and various events throughout the year, including Volcano Days.
* West Virginia is among the few states that doesn't charge an entrance fee to state parks.
"We have been gracious to get help from the state on a case-by-case basis," Buchanan said. "The county has been gracious to help support all of the venues."
With the No. 1 fundraiser being Volcano Days, which was a "tremendous" success this year, Buchanan said, Pressley Ridge is the park's No. 1 revenue maker through paying rent to the park.
"That's why it creates such a challenge," Buchanan said. "And why it's tremendously impressive with Jeremy (Cross) as the director and the board that we are able to get some things turned around and have a positive cash flow."
Also, the layout of the park makes it unconducive to the installation of a gate where the fees would be charged, Buchanan said.
"I just don't think we ever can (add a gate)," Buchanan said. "Unfortunately the park is cut into three by state roads and that inhibits (the park) with the opportunity to have a gate."
Legislators are preparing for the 2014 session with the discussion of state park funding arising.
West Virginia is among the few states that doesn't charge an entrance fee to state parks. A legislative audit has recommended at least $3 million each year for major maintenance and renovations.
Parks are under the jurisdiction of the Department of Commerce. No entrance fees are "a policy we're proud of and it's wonderful for our visitors," department spokesman Chelsea Ruby said.
"But it means we forgo a major funding source available to state parks in most of the rest of the country," she said.
An assessment by the department is underway of the most-needed projects, Ruby said. The department will present a proposal on maintenance and future funding to Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin.
Democratic Majority Whip Sen. William Laird, chairman of the Natural Resources Committee, said no entry fee to the parks is a tradition that deserves to be honored and other solutions must first be exhausted.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.