Ask Outdoors Girl

April 02, 2011

Ned Colburn of Havre de Grace writes: In 2002, when I turned 62 years old, I was delighted to be eligible for a Golden Age Pass from the Maryland Park Service. Specifically, this pass was obtained at The Susquehanna State Park, which is nearby and allowed me to use the boat launching ramp at no cost. Following renovation of that launch ramp in 2010, I and many others were shocked to find out (often by finding a warning on our windshields) that our Golden Age Passes were no longer useable for this ramp (and the boat launching fee doubled). When asked about this, the Park Rangers gave a vague answer regarding the park service's right to do this. I suspect that there is some wording in some regulation that does allow the Park Service this option, however, I would like to know what these regulations are and the rationale for this decision. It seems to me that I and many other senior citizens received these passes only to have the rug pulled out from under us. They should have at least been "grandfathered" (no pun intended).

Lt. Col. Chris Bushman, deputy superintendent of the Maryland Park Service, replies: Free boat launching with a Golden Age Pass has never been authorized by law or regulation, or by Maryland Park Service policy. The confusion in this particular situation — the perception that we have denied a benefit of the Golden Age Pass — is completely our fault. Managers at some parks were extending boat launch privileges to Pass holders, a service for which we normally charge all users a nominal fee.

We discovered this error and reinstated the policy, meaning that Pass holders were once again required to pay the launch charge to contribute toward the maintenance and upkeep of the ramp. We did not, however, raise the fee for launching at Susquehanna.

We offer the Maryland State Park Passport ($75 for Maryland residents / $100 for non-residents), the cost of which would be recovered after only a half-dozen or so launches. Not only does the Passport entitle the holder to free boat launching, it also provides for free day-use admission to all State Parks for everyone in a single vehicle (up to 10 people) and a 10 percent discount on state-operated concessions and boat rentals. The 2011 Passport is available online by visiting the Maryland Park Service website at http://www.dnr.state.md.us/publiclands/

If you have an outdoors question in search of an answer, email candy.thomson@baltsun.com.

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