COLUMBIA -- S.C. State Parks brought in more money in the past year than ever before, as the department edged toward the goal of self-sufficiency.
Gov. Nikki Haley and Duane Parrish, her appointee as director of the Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism, want the parks to generate enough revenue to cover operating expenses by 2013.
In an indication of how difficult that will be, the parks had their most productive revenue year in history, pulling in $21.2 million. Yet, the portion of expenses covered by revenue only moved from 83 to 84 percent in the 2012 fiscal year. That's up from 66 percent in 2002.
"These are positive numbers for us to build on as we work toward our goal" of self-sufficiency, said state parks director Phil Gaines. "Some of the changes only started in the middle of the fiscal year, and people responded in a positive way."
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The park system includes Hunting Island State Park in northern Beaufort County, one of the most heavily visited in South Carolina.
The changes included tiered fees for the park passport, with a high end of $99 for entry to all parks for a year to a low end of $35 for seven-day entry to inland parks. Also, fees were adjusted for camp sites and cabins, new fee-based programs were begun and park gift shop operations were tweaked.
In the fiscal year ending June 30, the parks had their highest ever overall revenue, admissions revenue, camping revenue and retail revenue.
"Park visitors continue to enjoy their state parks and be very supportive of our new initiatives," Gaines said.