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Maryland lawmakers to study needs of state parks

Former Gov. Parris Glendening will lead a bipartisan group of lawmakers in studying how to improve Maryland’s state parks, which have been taxed by record use during the pandemic.

In creating the commission, House of Delegates Speaker Adrienne A. Jones and Senate President Bill Ferguson noted that nearly a dozen state parks filled to capacity over the Independence Day weekend.

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The commission will start meeting in September and will be tasked with evaluating the needs of the state park system and recommending improvements. They’ll evaluate whether there are enough parks and facilities to meet demand, whether staffing and funding levels are sufficient and whether parks are sufficiently accessible to people who have low incomes, lack cars or have disabilities.

In 2020, state parks saw a 45% increase in visitors over the year before, and parks hit capacity and turned away visitors 292 times, The Baltimore Sun reported in June.

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Ferguson and Jones tapped Glendening, a Democrat who embraced “smart growth” as a signature issue as governor, to lead the group.

“At a time when our citizens most needed a healthy outdoor environment, they were often met with a ‘Park Closed’ sign,” Glendening said in a statement.

The members of the commission include: Del. Eric Luedtke of Montgomery County, who is the Democratic majority leader; Del. Mark Chang, an Anne Arundel County Democrat; Del. Regina T. Boyce, a Baltimore Democrat; Del. Jeff Ghrist, an Easter Shore Republican; Sen. Craig Zucker, a Montgomery County Democrat; Sen. Sarah Elfreth, an Anne Arundel County Democrat; Sen. Obie Patterson, a Prince George’s County Democrat; and Sen. George Edwards, a Garrett County Republican.

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