THE Ohio Department of Natural Resources certainly struck a sensitive public nerve in January with a plan to impose a daily parking fee in state parks. The proposal was so overwhelmingly unpopular among rank-and-file Ohioans that the House of Representatives has eliminated it from pending budget legislation, and the Senate is likely to go along.
In doing so, however, lawmakers have substituted one problem for another by cutting $8 million in funding for curbside recycling programs around the state over the next two years.
This is hardly the long-term solution we envisioned to the maintenance problems at the state parks. While we regretted the need for an admission charge, it appeared to be necessary to keep the 74 facilities in good repair, with grass and weeds cut regularly.
Now local governments will be forced to scramble for funds to continue curbside recycling programs, which have long been neglected in some areas, notably Toledo.
The City recently reaffirmed its commitment to expand curbside recycling, practiced by only 17 percent of households. The prospect of having to find new money to replace state grants could hamper this effort.
In choosing a "rob Peter to pay Paul" solution to state park maintenance, lawmakers have chosen the path of least resistance but not the correct path. They know that recycling programs are substantially less popular than free admission to state parks.
Indeed, it appeared that legislators believed they would be blamed for the parking fee, promulgated by ODNR administratively through the agency rule review process and set to take effect in May. Public reaction was overwhelmingly negative, even venomous.
By tapping the recycling fund, the lawmakers are taking the politically easy way out although they have lost sight of the original goal: a reliable source of continuing funding for park maintenance.
When the budget must be balanced - no mean feat with a $5 billion deficit looming - it's easy to be short-sighted. But such myopia seldom solves problems.
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