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Utah panel puts brakes on discounts for senior campers at state parks

Utah panel puts brakes on discounts for senior campers at state parks

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SALT LAKE CITY — A bill allowing senior citizens to get a 50 percent discount on camping in state parks may not make it to the Senate floor after some lawmakers Monday questioned whether it was necessary and that others may have more of a need.

Senate Minority Whip Luz Escamilla, D-Salt Lake City, sponsored SB48 to help seniors because they are on a fixed income. Seniors can buy a yearlong day pass for $35, and under her bill, would be eligible to then save half on camping fees.

Escamilla said the money for the bill would be provided from the state's general fund.

But Sen. Jerry Stevenson, R-Layton, said he was concerned about the cost to the government — 11,665 Utahns hold the senior pass — and questioned whether there were seniors who would really need this.

"I belong in the senior citizen class you’re talking about, and I’ve never objected to paying what minimal fee there is to use a park," Stevenson said.

Sen. David Hinkins, R-Orangeville, said he would rather see discounts going to small families who could not afford the parks.

Jeff Rasmussen, director for Utah's state parks, said seniors are a substantial group of people using the parks.

"Our rates are really quite reasonable, and in many situations they’re less than half what you would pay at a private facility with equivalent services, so I really think it’s a pretty good bargain the way it is," Rasmussen said.

The Senate Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment Committee held the bill.

Emily Ashcraft

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