Should state parks be funded with user fees or tax dollars?

State funding for the agency that oversees parks fell by $4.5 million over the last 12 years, even as expenses kept growing. To make ends meet, the Department of Conservation and Recreation has had to capitalize on its assets, collecting more and more revenue from those who use the parks or lease space in them.

Two recent examples illustrate the trend. DCR recently began moving ahead with plans to start charging for parking along roadways it owns in Revere and Cambridge. Most of the new parking meters were installed along Revere Beach Parkway, which abuts the nation’s oldest public beach. 

The agency also hiked nightly camping fees for out-of-state visitors to the state’s parks. The camping fee for out-of-state visitors to the state’s premier parks jumped temporarily from $35 to $75 last year and was made permanent this year.

Both moves make political and practical sense. Charging for parking is a way of making users share in the upkeep of beaches and parks. Charging out-of-state residents far more than in-state residents for campsites is a way of pushing the cost of upkeep on to those who don’t vote here and whose complaints are likely to fall on deaf ears.

The recent moves by DCR underscore an ongoing debate about whether the agency is managed properly and adequately funded – a debate that appears to be slowly coming to a head.

A special commission is now examining DCR and looking for ways to improve the operation of the agency, including the possibility of transferring some of its assets to other agencies or municipalities. The commission has hired the Donahue Institute at UMass Amherst to do a scrub of the agency.

Doug Pizzi, the executive director of Massachusetts Conservation Voters, says DCR is only doing what it has to do to survive. “DCR is under extreme pressure to raise money any way it can without raising taxes,” he said.

Pizzi and Chuck Anastas, the chair of Massachusetts Conservation Voters, recently urged the commission to focus less on cannibalizing DCR’s assets and more on its budget and the source of its funding.

“Specifically, do we want a park system that relies on broad-based general appropriation tax dollars to sustain it or regressive user fees that hinder the ability of those who most need our parks to use them freely?” they asked. “Recent trends to increase the percentage of the budget paid for in user fees and other non-tax income are as wrong-headed as they are fiscally imprudent.”




It’s finally coming to an end: Gov. Charlie Baker said he is lifting nearly all COVID-19 restrictions on May 29 and ending the state of emergency on June 15. The governor moved the timetable up by two months, ostensibly because he expects 4.1 million residents to be fully vaccinated by early June. As he said, those who have been vaccinated are at low risk of contracting and spreading COVID-19, which he likened to Michael Myers, the fictional murderer in the movie Halloween who keeps returning from the dead to claim more victims. Read more.

Gaming revenue rising: Casino revenues kept rising in April, generating the largest monthly state tax haul since February 2020, prior to the pandemic. Read more


Grid upgrades: Brian Gemmell of National Grid makes the case that many of the state’s clean energy goals will not be met without significant investment in the transmission capabilities of the regional power grid. Read more.

Rush to judgment: William Smith of the Pioneer Institute says a Boston institute should wait for more evidence before trying to kneecap an Alzheimer’s drug awaiting FDA approval. Read more.





A Senate Ways and Means budget proposal to pare back the state’s film tax credit will face bipartisan opposition when the measure is taken up next week. (State House News Service)


The city’s standoff with Boston Police Commissioner Dennis White is a legal thicket with lots of questions. (Boston Globe

Quincy Mayor Thomas Koch has withdrawn a proposal to spend $23 million to acquire a downtown parcel to build a 16-story building housing city offices and Quincy College. (Patriot Ledger

Brockton rallied around the families of two boys who drowned in a local pond, with a candlelight vigil to remember them. (The Enterprise


The 281 new COVID-19 cases reported yesterday marked the lowest daily number in the state since September. (Boston Herald

The Dana-Farber Cancer Institute launched a $2 billion fundraising campaign. (Boston Globe)

With Roe v. Wade in jeopardy, the US Supreme Court agrees to review a Mississippi abortion law. (NPR)

Many PPP loans went to nonexistent farms in very strange places. (ProPublica)

A group of Japanese doctors says the Summer Olympics scheduled to begin in Tokyo in 66 days should be called off because of rising COVID-19 cases in the country. (Washington Post)


Taunton Republican Jesse Brown says he’ll challenge Democratic US Rep. William Keating next year in the 9th Congressional District. (Boston Herald

The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe elects a new leader — Brian Weeden. (Cape Cod Times)


Restaurant owners are urging the state to continue the pandemic-driven permission they have had to sell cocktails-to-go. (Boston Globe


Boston, Worcester, and Natick are among 13 school systems seeking to open virtual schools next year. (GBH)

The Framingham school system is changing the name of the Woodrow Wilson Elementary School because of the former president’s segregationist stances. (MetroWest Daily News


A Boston police officer under investigation for sending tweets attacking former vice president Mike Pence and for attending the January 6 rally that led to the US Capitol riots was a main organizer of “Back the Blue” rallies in Massachusetts in support of police, the Globe reports.

Boston’s acting police commissioner, Greg Long, has kept a low profile. (Boston Globe

Search warrants detail how, police say, a Leominister video store served a major crime outpost. (MassLive

Marcela Garcia puts a spotlight on the @Stacos Twitter account, which puts a real-time spotlight on crime and other emergencies unfolding in Boston. (Boston Globe


Public radio station WNYC fired Bob Garfield, co-host of the popular national program “On the Media,” over what it said were violations of its anti-bullying policy. (New York Times