ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY, Md. (7News) — With school back in session, there is plenty of elbow room on the beach at Sandy Point State Park even on a beautiful Thursday. This weekend it will be a different story.
“People line up way before daybreak to get into the parks. From 5 am onward you’ve got lines at the gates,” says Dean Hughes, President of the Maryland Park Rangers Association.
Hughes says by mid-morning Saturday Sandy Point and many other parks, especially those with water access, will be at capacity and the park service will start sending out tweet after tweet announcing day use parks are full. Hughes says the demand for a place to enjoy the great outdoors is immense.
“Many of our campgrounds have been booked full from the time they opened until the end of the camping season.”
7News On Your Side reported on the issue last year. Maryland State Parks and their aging infrastructure are in danger, in the words of some, of being loved to death.
Also last year the situation at the parks grabbed the attention of Senate President Bill Ferguson and others.
“They kept us going, they kept people outside, they kept us safe but they also gave us that sense of community that we can do things together,” says Ferguson of the parks.
Ferguson set up a study group which led to the passage of the Maryland Great Outdoors Act which will send $162 million to the parks for repairs, expansion and increased staffing.
“It is putting the state’s largest historical investment in state parks in this state’s history; it is a remarkable, remarkable thing,” says the Senate President, a Democrat from Baltimore.
$70 million from the Act will go towards a parks maintenance backlog which is estimated at more than $100 million. Ranger Hughes says parkgoers will see the difference.
“The money that they’re gonna use for critical maintenance is going to completely transform the parks that exist now.”
The Great Outdoors Act designates $80 Million for park acquisition and expansion with a particular focus on water access and also areas which can be served by mass transit. So you don’t need a car to come to a place like Sandy Point State Park.