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Explore Your Parks Touting Outdoor Activities

May 20, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

The North Face Explore Your Parks (www.exploreyourparks.com) program, an award-winning outreach effort, for the fourth consecutive year is partnering with state parks around the country to encourage participation in outside activities.

According to a press release, the 2013 program, running now through August, has expanded to 13 markets including state parks in 12 states and the Chicago Park District. This marks the first time Explore Your Parks partnered with a city park district.

Offered again this year is the popular Camping 101 program for first-time campers. The overnight experience, guided by park rangers, focuses on camping basics including campsite setup and etiquette, outdoor cooking, safety tips and staff-led nature education sessions.

Camping 101 activities are customized in each of the 13 markets with some state park locations offering family-oriented activities like fishing, hiking and canoeing.  In Chicago, participants will learn how to camp in an urban setting with the Chicago skyline as a backdrop.

Currently, The North Face Explore Your Parks reaches approximately 25% of the U.S. population and the company is committed to expanding the program every year to boost interest in outdoor exploration.

“Research shows only half of Americans currently participate in outdoor activities,” said Ann Krcik, director of Outdoor Exploration for The North Face. “The North Face looks to encourage people of all ages to get off the couch and venture outside to enjoy the beauty and wonder of nature – especially our parks.”

The success of the Explore Your Parks campaign was recognized this year when Outdoor USA Magazine named it “Best Cause Program.”  The award recognizes those companies that excel in design and implementation of innovative marketing and communications programs.

“Our mission is to foster a love of the outdoors,” Krcik said. “With Explore Our Parks and family involvement, we are reaching kids at an early age. If youth experience outdoor activities in a positive way, it’s possible to set long-term trends for an overall healthier life.”

 

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Resurgence in Camping Translates to RV Sales

February 4, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Phil Abbott isn’t ready to declare victory yet but after a couple stale years during the down economy, the sales manager at a West Virginia dealership feels like the RV business is hopefully out of the woods. Or, into the woods, as it were.

As reported by the Herald Dispatch, Huntington, when it comes to RV sales and camping visits at regional state parks, things are trending up for the 2013 camping season, said travel and tourism industry workers gathered Sunday during the final day of the three-day Huntington RV and Boat Show that filled the Big Sandy Superstore Arena.

“It’s been pretty stagnant the past few years, but we did pretty good at the show,” said Abbott, the sales manager at Burdette Camping Center, which along with Setzer’s World of Camping helps anchor the Huntington show. “I think what people are doing is spending less but if it’s under $20,000 people are still going to spend that. … They may be spending less, and they may not have as much time off, but they still love spending time with the family and going to places like Cave Run.”

While Abbott said Burdette is moving a lot of smaller units as well as doing big business in their service department as folks are hanging onto older units, the trend nationally projects continued RV growth in 2013.

According to the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), RV shipments are projected to grow slightly in 2013. That uptick in spending also could be felt at area state parks as well.

If inquiries about campsite application forms for reservable sites at West Virginia’s state parks and forests is an indication, camping in 2013 could be a banner year, according to a recent state park press release.

While we are still in the heart of winter, West Virginia State Parks will begin processing mail-in reservation applications after Feb. 15.

Getting those reservations are important as many campgrounds fill up, especially during holiday seasons at the 29 state park areas that manage campgrounds.

“We can quickly change from a few dozen people to over 1,600 individuals seemingly overnight,” said Matt Yeager at Beech Fork State Park in the release. “Families like to camp. It is one of those quintessential summer pastimes.”

To read the entire article click here.

 

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Park Visitors Graying, NPS is After Younger Mix

April 6, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

The average visitor to some of the nation’s parks and wilderness areas is getting grayer, prompting a new emphasis on getting young people to unplug and head outdoors.

USA Today reported that without “a generation of kids who have had good experiences with national parks, then in a very short amount of time, we may not have enough people who care about national parks to keep them going,” says John Hayes of the Dunes Learning Center at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.

For the National Park Service (NPS), developing life-long connections between the public and parks — especially for young people — is a priority from now until its 2016 centennial.

That could be a challenge: A 2010 Kaiser Family Foundation study found that people ages 8 to 18 spent an average of 7½ hours a day on digital media. Last month, a study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that three times as many Millennials — born in the 1980s and ’90s — as Baby Boomers said they made no personal effort to help the environment.

A “big concern” of the National Park Service “is maintaining 21st-century relevance,” says James Gramann, a Texas A&M professor writing a book on people-park links. Visitors ages 16-24 are most under-represented, he says.

The aging of visitors affects wild places across the USA:

•The average age of a visitor to Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area was 26 in 1969, 36 in 1991 and 45 in 2007, says a March report by the U.S. Forest Service. “It’s the same people. They got attached, and they keep going back,” says co-author Bob Dvorak, a Central Michigan University professor.

•The average age of out-of-state visitors to Glacier and Yellowstone national parks in 2011 was 54, says the University of Montana’s Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research.

•At California’s Death Valley National Park, 49% of spring visitors in 2010 were 46 to 65 years old.

Overall visits to national parks fell in 2011 for the second year in a row. The National Park Service counted 278.9 million visits in 2011, down about 1% from 2010.

Some parks have plenty of young visitors. The Lincoln Home National Historic Site in Springfield, Ill., attracts about 10,000 students a year, Superintendent Dale Phillips says. “It’s important that we teach them early,” he says.

 

 

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Can Public/Private Partnerships Benefit Parks?

October 5, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

How public agencies can keep parks and campgrounds open through private recreation management partnerships is the focus of a day-long conference on Nov. 2 in Scottsdale, Ariz.

The event is being planned by Warren Meyer, the president of National Forest Recreation Association. It takes place from 1 to 7 p.m. at the Hilton Scottsdale Resort.

The day-long conference is being held in conjunction with the association’s 63rd Annual Conference and Trade Show, which will be held in Scottsdale Nov. 2-4.

“For 30 years, the U.S. Forest Service has seen radically declining recreation budgets, with far greater reductions than places like California is facing, but has not had to close parks and has kept most of their recreation areas well-maintained,” Meyer stated in a news release. “Their innovation was to take advantage of the substantially lower costs of private operators to run their campgrounds and picnic areas.

“For the last couple of years, it has frustrated me to no end to watch states like California and Arizona — really almost every state in the country — let some parks accumulate deferred maintenance while other are closed when it simply is not necessary,” he added.

Topics to be discussed include:

• History of recreation public-private partnerships (PPP), including current examples of parks participants may contact or visit.

• Case studies from the U.S. Forest Service, the world’s largest user of recreation PPPs.

• Advantages of recreation PPPs, and pitfalls to be avoided.

• Typical division of responsibilities between the public and private partners in these contracts.

• Best practice contract structure and contracting process.

• Supporting legislation and relationships between agencies.

Speakers include:

• Warren Meyer, president of the National Forest Recreation Association, the trade group of private park operators in the U.S. Forest Service. He is also CEO of Recreation Resource Management, one of the largest private park management companies in the country, and the proprietor of ParkPrivatization.com, the leading online journal of Recreation PPP news and issues.

• Len Gilroy, director of government reform at Reason Foundation where he is a certified urban planner who researches privatization, government reform, transportation, infrastructure and urban policy issues. Gilroy is the editor of the world’s most respected newsletter on privatization, Privatization Watch, and is the editor of the widely read Annual Privatization Report.

Due to generous donations from sponsors, the cost to participate in the conference is $100 per person, but public officials and agency employees may attend for free. Click here to learn more about the entire conference.

For more information, call Meyer at (602) 569-2333 or e-mail warren@camprrm.com.

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ARVC Members Vary on State Park Membership

August 22, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Private park associations in at least two states — New York and Missouri — have said “no” to a plan by the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC) to offer free memberships for the remainder of this year to state parks.

The objections to ARVC’s plan surfaced in an informal survey conducted last week by Woodall’s Campground Management. Other states apparently are leaning against backing the plan as well.

Ironically, the associations in those two states are headed by men who sit on the ARVC board of directors.

ARVC’s Executive Committee and board of directors sanctioned the six-month trial membership offer to all non-members in early June. ARVC CEO Paul Bambei subsequently announced the ARVC plan.

“Times are changing, and we need to look to the public parks not as competitors, but as industry partners since we are typically viewed as one in the same by camping consumers and we also share many of the same marketing and government affairs objectives,” Bambei stated in a July 8 news release.

ARVC bylaws have permitted public park membership for many years, and while some states, such as Maine, California and Vermont, have aggressively pursued public park membership, the national association remained relatively quiet. In June, however, ARVC launched a mail campaign designed to attract non-members to the association by hailing its multiple benefits, and many have taken notice, ARVC noted in a news release.

“We’ve already received several inquiries from both non-member private parks as well as public parks that see the value of ARVC membership, and we plan to make ARVC membership available to them on a six-month trial basis,” Bambei said, adding that the offer has been warmly received by top representatives of the National Association of State Park Directors (NASPD).

Opposition Surfaces Quickly

However, within weeks, private park owners in New York and Missouri expressed their disapproval of the plan.

During a conference call in the third week of July, the 19-member board of the Campground Owners of New York (CONY) voted not to honor the ARVC request, said Donald G. Bennett Jr., CONY executive director. CONY’s bylaws do not allow for a state park to become a member in any class of membership, Bennett said.

Beyond that, from a practical standpoint, Bennett noted, the last half of the year is when many private state associations assemble their campground directories for the coming year. Any state park that would join for the second half of this year would be added to the printed directory for 2012 and would be in that directory all year, even if the park subsequently decided not to re-up for the coming year.

“It’s easy to put someone on a website and then take them off. Once they’re in a printed book, you can’t take that back,” he said.

Bennett surmises that, aside from conference calls, few state associations have had a chance to meet or poll their members on the ARVC plan.

In Missouri, the executive committee of the Missouri Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (MOARC) voted not to accept state and federal parks into their association.

“The MOARC board stands behind our mission statement to serve the special needs of RV Parks and Campgrounds in Missouri in order to provide the public with the highest quality camping experience,” Larry Helms, MOARVC president and owner of Boiling Springs Campground in Dixon, Mo., stated in an e-mail dated July 24 sent to Bambei and other ARVC officials.

“We support all private parks in Missouri and we believe MOARC can benefit the state more effectively by helping private parks improve and expand as privately owned businesses in the tourism industry.”

Many state associations don’t hold formal meetings during the summer months so a formal decision by many other states has yet to be made.

To read the entire article, click here.

 

 

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Shifting Dynamics Hit Private Sector, State Parks

August 18, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

The following is an in-depth look at the shifting relationship between the nation’s state parks and private sector parks. It is the second in a series authored by Steve Bibler, editor for Woodalls Campground Management.

The ever-changing face of the nation’s financially pressed state parks took on a few new wrinkles this summer with the most dramatic impact in Florida, where controversy erupted over the state of Florida’s announced plans to expand camping into some of the state’s favorite parks, and Minnesota, where a startling budget crisis prompted the shutdown of state government and all of the Gopher State’s state-run parks for a time this summer.

And while states like Maine, Pennsylvania, Texas and Colorado made some news as well, opening privately run campgrounds in state parks certainly turned out to be a hot-button issue in Florida. “Not a good idea,” said hundreds of indignant citizens.

Responding to the public outcry, Florida Gov. Rick Scott put the kibosh on plans to consider bringing concessionaire-operated, RV-friendly campgrounds to Honeymoon Island State Park and ordered further analysis of the state proposal overall.

The move encouraged many members of the Florida Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (Florida ARVC), which had lobbied the governor against the plan.

“I think it’s the right move,” said association Executive Director Bobby Cornwell. “Not to say it won’t happen, but it will go through a more stringent review process. We’re pleased with the additional review and the possibility it may not happen at all.”

“The mass of the people won this one,” Cornwell said, conceding that Florida ARVC was just one of many voices united in “unparalleled and unexpected opposition” to the plan. Hearings were held on plans at four state parks. Cornwell submitted verbal or written opposition at each one.

As for the future, Cornwell is uncertain how this summer’s bru-ha-ha will affect relations between his association and the state. “I don’t know how it will affect that relationship. I hope we still have an open relationship and work together when we can. Hopefully, it will be status quo and we can co-exist.”

The message, according to Cornwell, is that state parks “don’t need to expand too quickly where it could hurt the private sector. If they do (build campgrounds), they should make sure it’s more rustic in nature, primitive tent camping. That would be great because it gets more people camping and gradually moving up to RVs.”

To read the entire story click here.

 

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State Park Assn. Exec Recaps Industry Issues

July 12, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Editor’s Note: Joe Elton, president of the National Association of State Park Directors (NASPD), spoke with Woodall’s Campground Management (WCM) editor Steve Bibler on July 8 concerning the proposed cooperation between his association and the private campground sector. The following are Elton’s comments on other campground topics.

On the current state park shutdown in Minnesota:

“I think it’s insane. This is about using the things the public loves in a political gambit. The truth is, Minnesota has a great state park system. They were supposed to have a robust visitation over the Fourth of July and rest of the season. It’s a tragedy for citizens who lost the opportunity to connect with nature and for the economy.

On the economic impact of state parks in general:

“These parks generate a huge return on investment. It’s tenfold nationwide, when you consider the 50 state park systems cost less than $2 billion to manage and operate and generate $23 billion in economic impact.”

On the proposed privatization plan for Florida state parks:

“I don’t know enough about it to be able to comment very specifically. Most park systems have had private concessionaires working with them. This proposal in Florida could be a smart thing. Capital expenditure money may be very difficult to get and Florida has robust visitation at its parks. At the end of the day, if the privately managed campgrounds in Florida state parks are delivering a service comparable to what the state is delivering, I don’t think the pubic will care. They care if it doesn’t reach expectations in cleanliness and functionality or has rude staff. We all need to recognize the public wants high standards.

“The downside to concessioning? The private concessionaire has to maintain the facilities. If they take the money out and they don’t make improvements, they are found to be derelict of their contractual obligations and it falls on the state and the taxpayers. It doesn’t have to be that way if you have a good collaborative relationship.”

Note: Since Elton spoke with WCM, the Florida governor has withdrawn his proposal to build an RV park in Honeymoon Lake State Park and has asked for a review of the overall state park privatization plan.

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Industry Leaders Weigh in on ARVC Proposal

July 11, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

The National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC) plans to extend its membership to a greater number of state parks in an effort to strengthen the campground industry’s political power and marketing potential.

“Times are changing, and we need to look to the public parks not as competitors, but as industry partners since we are typically viewed as one in the same by camping consumers and we also share many of the same marketing and government affairs objectives,” said Paul Bambei, ARVC’s president and CEO.

ARVC bylaws have permitted public park membership for many years, and while some states, such as Maine, California and Vermont, have aggressively pursued public park membership, the national association remained relatively quiet. In June, however, ARVC launched a mail campaign designed to attract non-members to the Association by hailing its multiple benefits, and many have taken notice.

“We’ve already received several inquiries from both non-member private parks as well as public parks that see the value of ARVC membership, and we plan to make ARVC membership available to them on a six month trial basis,” Bambei said, adding that the offer has been warmly received by top representatives of the National Association of State Park Directors (NASPD).

ARVC’s Executive Committee and Board of Directors approved the six-month trial membership offer to all non-members in early June.

“State park directors will be making independent decisions to participate in the trial over the next few weeks,” Bambei said, adding that Jeff Sims, ARVC’s director of membership and government affairs, is assisting the effort by contacting each director to answer any questions.

“There is strength in numbers, both financial and political,” Sims said. “Already, those states that have recognized the wisdom of proactively welcoming public parks to their associations over the past several years have been generally pleased with the relationship.”
Bambei added that by representing both public and private parks, ARVC can strengthen its marketing and government affairs efforts.

“Working together as an industry for the good of all is not only outwardly beneficial in our dealings with the press, government officials and consumers, but can also have far reaching benefits to our members as campground owners,” Bambei said, adding that increased public-private park collaboration could pave the way to beneficial business relationships for both segments of the campground business.

“The natural trails, rivers, lakes and woodlands that are such a huge consumer attraction on these public park lands could become more accessible to private parks as a result of this relationship, which in turn could make camping more enjoyable for all,” Bambei said. “Alternatively, state parks generally do not have the pools, stores and infrastructure of private parks, so there could be many reciprocal opportunities for guest referral as a result of this relationship.”

Having public and private parks speak with one voice will also strengthen the industry’s government affairs efforts. “Together, we will have a stronger voice in Washington and in the state legislatures,” Sims said, adding that state government cutbacks have forced many public parks to raise their fees and operate more like business entrepreneurs, which has helped to level the playing field between public and private park sectors.

“These economic pressures being felt among public parks will surely continue,” Sims said, adding that over time it will likely erode, if not erase, price differences that exist between public and private parks today.
ARVC Chairman David L. Berg, who is also president of the Maine Campground Owners Association, said the state association has welcomed state parks as members for several years and that the relationship has been mutually beneficial at all levels.

“Times have changed,” Berg said. “And while it took some time for a few of our members to realize the benefits of working together, it is now clear that we are all in the same business. We often have the same customers. And public parks receive the same benefits of membership as private parks.”

Berg added that he is happy to welcome public parks into ARVC. “Once they experience the benefits of belonging to a national as well as, in some cases, state associations, we will all be working together promoting camping for the betterment of ‘our’ members and ‘our’ customers.”
Dan Wright, president of the California Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds, said his state association believes the move to encourage increased state park membership in ARVC is a step in the right direction as well. “The board of CalARVC has really encouraged this type of collaboration,” Wright said, adding that public and private parks need to be working together to strengthen public interest and support for camping, regardless of whether it’s in public or private parks.
Wright himself manages The Springs at Borrego RV Resort in the Southern California desert, which generates most of its business from visitors who want to visit neighboring Anza Borrego Desert State Park. “In an age when we’re talking about closing state parks, instead we should be talking about ways to enhance state park revenue opportunities and how they can offer more amenities and services to their guests,” Wright said, adding that strengthening private park relationships with state park operators can be mutually beneficial.

David Gorin, executive director of the Virginia Campground Association, said it’s time for the private park sector to move beyond the days of looking at state parks as competitors. “The competitive playing field is leveling on the price side, and we in Virginia welcome state parks as partners in the growing camping market,” Gorin said.
Gorin added that public park members can also strengthen camping industry tradeshow attendance. “We don’t think it’s good for anyone to have the Virginia Campground Association in one booth at an RV show and the Virginia state parks promoting camping in their booth on the opposite side of the floor,” he said. “As the saying goes, a rising tide raises all ships.”
The National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds is the national
voice of the outdoor hospitality industry. For additional information or for leads on parks in your news coverage area, please visit www.arvc.org and www.gocampingamerica.com.

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ARVC Forges Fresh Inroads with State Parks

July 7, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Editor’s Note: Paul Bambei, president and CEO of the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC), issued the following letter to members on Thursday concerning the possibility of state parks joining the organization.

As an unexpected, but welcomed outcome of ARVC’s non-member mail campaign launched in mid-June, we have received several inquiries from state public parks that see the value of ARVC membership.

As a result of these discussions, I am pleased to announce the board of the National Association of State Park Directors (NASPD), which represents approximately 2,200 state parks and 7,800 recreation/natural areas in all 50 states and Puerto Rico, has voted to encourage each of its 51 state directors to join ARVC on a six-month trial basis. These state park directors will be making independent decisions to participate in the trial over the next few weeks, with the possibility of joining ARVC and the state associations at the trial’s end.

Per ARVC bylaws, public parks have been allowed to join ARVC for many years and we certainly welcome their participation. Please be advised all participating public parks will be admitted as non-voting status, again per our bylaws.

If certain states do not currently allow public parks as members of their association, we encourage them to consider doing so, as these public parks may also be desirous of joining not only ARVC, but their respective state association as well. This will be mutually beneficial to ARVC and the state associations for the following reasons:

Growth: There is strength in numbers, both financial and political. Already, states like California, Maine, and Colorado have recognized the wisdom of welcoming public parks to their associations, as does ARVC nationally.

Industry Unity: Working together as an industry for the good of all is not only outwardly beneficial in our dealings with the press, governmental officials, and consumers, it can also have far reaching benefits to you as a local private campground owner. The natural trails, rivers, lakes and woodlands available on these public park lands could become more accessible to private parks as a result of this relationship, expanding your own amenities, which in turn makes the camping experience more enjoyable for all. Alternatively, state parks generally do not have the pools, stores and infrastructure of our private parks, opening up the likelihood of referral business from them to you.

Government Advocacy: Together, as a more unified industry, we will have a stronger voice in Washington and at the State Capitol level on matters that affect our common industry interests. Clearly, the “unfair competition” issue between private and public parks that existed in years past has been rapidly changing as well. Due to state government cutbacks, these parks have had to survive more as business entrepreneurs these past few years, incorporating new access fees and increasing their site rental rates in the process. This trend will surely continue, eventually erasing most, if not all, price gaps that may exist today.

Times are changing and ARVC, along with its represented and non represented States, look forward to joining hands in welcoming the NASPD into our fold.

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Looking For Ways to Save California State Parks

June 12, 2009 by · 2 Comments 

As California’s budget deficit grows, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has threatened to close most state parks.

Times are tough. Really tough. California, still reeling from the last round of budget cuts, must now figure out how to shave off another deficit, this time totaling $24 billion, according to KHTS-AM, Santa Clarita.

Preliminary plans have been set forth the governor, and one in particular is striking a chord with the public; the potential closing of many state parks.

That includes most campgrounds, parks, historical sites and other state properties.

It is estimated that the move would save the state tens of millions of dollars per year in operating costs, but some are saying that a closure of this magnitude might not save a dime. In fact, they believe it could actually cost the state money.

“We think the governor’s proposal to close 80% of California’s state parks is short-sighted, particularly when statistics show that these parks generate far more tax revenue than the state spends to maintain them,” said Debbie Sipe, executive director of the California Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (CalARVC).

Sipe cited a Sacramento State University study, which reported that those headed for California state parks spend roughly $4.3 billion per year in “park-related” expenditures.

“That $4.3 billion generates $300 million a year in sales tax revenue, or more than four times the $70 million in savings the governor hoped to achieve by closing 80% of California’s state parks,” Sipe said.

While the study helps to estimate the potential impact of closing such a large number of state parks, it can only scratch the surface in figuring out if the cause it worthy.

According to Lisa Page with Schwarzenegger’s office, these numbers reflect yet-to-be-determined actions. State parks staff are still analyzing parks across California to determine which generate sufficient revenue, and which do not.

“There are a number of parks that have other sources of revenue, whether it be agreements with local governments, off-road vehicle park fees or state reservoirs,” Page said.

She also told KHTS that the governor is open to suggestions and all out-of-the-box ideas for how to keep these parks open. Public/private partnerships are being sought, as well as partnerships with local governments.

Two of the most common ideas to help cut the costs of running the parks involve raising park fees and closing down in the winter months.

Sipe says that closing in the off times could be one way to keep the cuts as minimally invasive as possible.

“Can you close mid-week, or in the winter time and still serve maybe 80% of your population with 50% of your budget?” she mused. “Let’s look at this creatively and see how we can get the most bang for our buck out of every dollar that state parks have to spend.”

The reality is that even if the state parks aren’t closed on a mass scale, budget cuts will certainly create some form of impact. But the governor has vowed to investigate all potential savings.

“We’ve had to put options on the table that a few months ago would have been unthinkable,” Page said. “Unfortunately, to achieve the level of savings that we need to get, without borrowing and without tax increases, there are only so many places in the general fund to look.”

For now, the work has begun on both sides: the state to identify all fat available to cut and various supporters to start getting creative.

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