(TRENTON) - Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Tim Eustace and Valerie Vainieri Huttle to create a state park passport program to promote outdoor recreation, education, and visitation to state parks, forests, and historic sites was approved Thursday by the Assembly.
"This is a fun way of promoting our natural and historical treasures, while raising funds to support educational and recreational opportunities at state parks and forests," said Eustace (D-Bergen/Passaic). "Having a state park passport can help bring attention to our parks and historic sites, and spread the word about the natural beauty and the rich history that abounds in New Jersey."
"New Jersey is famous for the shore, but there are a wealth of parks and historical sites that exist in our state," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). "This is a great way to promote and support these other attractions, and incentivize more out-of-state tourists to visit New Jersey."
Under the bill, (A-2464) the Commissioner of Environmental Protection would be required to establish the state park passport. The passport would enable a visitor to collect a passport stamp from each state park, forest, and historic site visited. In addition to each park, forest, and historic site having its own passport stamp, a person would be able to obtain an annual collectible stamp. The commissioner may hold an annual competition for the design of the annual collectible stamp.
All state parks, forests, and historic sites would have a location, as designated by the commissioner, for visitors to obtain the passport stamp. The commissioner would announce the availability of the state park passport and the annual collectible stamp through a press announcement or other method including the posting of appropriate posters or signs.
The department may charge a reasonable fee for a state park passport which shall not exceed $15. The commissioner would be required to annually certify the costs incurred in the immediately preceding year by the department in producing, administering, and promoting the availability of the state park passport. In the event that the cost for the state park passport program is greater than the monies collected from the sale of the state park passport, the commissioner would be able to increase the fee for a state park passport to an amount which covers the cost of the program.
The bill would create a non-lapsing, interest-bearing fund in the Department of Treasury and monies collected from the sale of the park passport would be deposited into the fund. The net proceeds from the sale of the state park passport would be used to support and fund educational and recreational programs at state parks and forests, less the amounts necessary to reimburse the department for the costs of the program.
The bill was approved 77-0 by the Assembly and now heads to the Senate for further consideration.