At the request of Gov. John Baldacci, the state Bureau of Parks and Lands has abandoned its plan to add staffed admission booths at two popular places in Greater Portland where admission is now free.

To raise revenue, attendants would have collected entrance fees at Mackworth Island in Falmouth and Kettle Cove in Cape Elizabeth starting next month.

The policy called for Maine residents to pay $2, non-residents to pay $3, and all children ages 5 to 11 to pay $1, with children under 5 admitted free.

Although no attendants will collect admission fees, the bureau will install “iron rangers” – receptacles where visitors are supposed to insert their fees. Officials concede that compliance rates are low and there is no enforcement.

“We have an expectation that you will pay. Ultimately, it’s voluntary,” said Jeanne Curran, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Conservation, which includes the Bureau of Parks and Lands.

The governor asked the department to revise its plan after he read an article about the policy in The Portland Press Herald and learned of the public’s concern over the fees.

“I am concerned at a time when we want to encourage Maine people to enjoy the outdoors and be as physically active as possible that these fees may inhibit such activity,” Baldacci said in a written statement Wednesday.

Curran said the department and the Governor’s Office got e-mail messages from eight to 10 people, most saying they understood the reason for the new policy but still didn’t like it.

“This was not something we received thousands of calls” about, said David Farmer, a Baldacci spokesman. “I would characterize it more as the governor being pro-active in recognizing how important these issues are.”

Will Harris, director of the parks bureau, said earlier this week that admission fees would help maintain service and the number of state parks.

Mandatory fees at Mackworth Island, Kettle Cove and Colonial Pemaquid in New Harbor, which already has an iron ranger, were expected to generate $110,000 to $120,000 per season.

Mackworth Island draws an estimated 78,500 visitors a year, Kettle Cove attracts 160,000 and Colonial Pemaquid draws 44,000. It’s unclear how the bureau will make up for the revenue it won’t collect at those places.

Curran said increased attendance may help. Five state campgrounds opened several weeks earlier than usual this year, and winter family fun days drew more than 4,000 people. Also, she said, this year’s 75th anniversary of the state park system may provide a boost.

There are no plans to shift the fees to other state parks, Curran said. Layoffs and park closures aren’t “on the horizon,” she said. 

Staff Writer Ann S. Kim can be contacted at 791-6383 or at:

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