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But I paid for our park with my taxes - how can you charge a fee to use it?

Think of the income that New York state could generate with the registration of mountain bikes, as it is done in popular destinations such as Moab and Red Rock.

Or even canoes. Of course, for anyone purchasing a hunting, trapping or fishing license, such registrations would be included.

Registrations could be purchased through a special unit of the motor vehicles office. Purchases could be accomplished instantly via the current DECALS computer licensing system.

User fees are currently being collected for the use of state parklands in nearly a dozen states including California, Texas, Wisconsin, Colorado, Oregon, Arizona, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and New Hampshire. Could New York be next?

Many people don't realize it, but New York is already there! For several years, New York State has collected user fees, through the Department of Motor Vehicles. ATV and snowmobile registrations include fees dedicated to the development of off-road trails. Sadly, the money has been paid, but development of the trails is still lagging.

If user fees were to be collected from all user groups, including hikers, bikers, paddlers. climbers and skiers, the proceeds would have return to the trails and bridges, put in sites and accessible waters.

In 2006, the DEC instituted a voluntary user fee for hikers with its Trail Supporter patch. All monies raised from sales of the $5 patch are dedicated to the Conservation Fund's Outdoor Recreation, Trail Maintenance, and Development Account to help maintain and enhance non-motorized trails throughout New York State.

The first year of the program, the DEC sold 482 items with $2,320 revenue. In 2009, only 131 of the voluntary Trail Supporter Patches sold for a total of $655.

Trails Supporter Patches are available for purchase for a $5 donation at all outlets where sporting licenses are sold and they are also sold and on DEC's website.

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