I heard some news recently that first shocked me, then maddened me, then made me a bit sad. The cost of an annual pass to South Carolina’s State Parks has gone from $50 to $75 for 2012. We’ve had one ever since moving here in 2003 and the price then, and for several subsequent years, was $25 for locals. Two years ago, I believe, that discount disappeared and now we’re up to three times the cost.
Upon hearing the news, the knee-jerk reaction was, “There’s no way we’re renewing. I’m just not sure we’ll use it that much.” But then I started doing the math. We tend to go there about once a week throughout the summer and sporadically during the year. If we planned for eight visits for our family of four ($5 per adult, $3 for children ages 6-15), we’re up to $128. And yes, while we could go to any of the million public beach accesses along the Grand Strand, they typically have no potties, ice cream stores, or life guards. The Myrtle Beach State Park has always been our favorite spot to enjoy some time at the beach but that was only partially due to it being a good deal.
After returning to rationality, I got a little mad. Why the sudden price increase? We’ve been faithful buyers of the pass for eight years. Why is there no discount for renewals? How about a program where you can volunteer and earn a discount? Something? Anything? To pay three times the amount I did five years ago, or so, makes me feel devalued as a customer. It makes me want hairflip and say we’ll just find another place to go. Seriously folks, the rate of inflation isn’t *that* bad.
And that’s when I got sad. I don’t have confirmation on this conclusion from anyone at the Myrtle Beach State Park, but I can only assume that funding is down. To date, services haven’t been compromised, so the discrepancy in budget has to come from somewhere. What makes me most sad, however, is the realization that a lot of people won’t get beyond the hairflip. They won’t come back. So then what? A jump to $100 next year? A fee for each educational program? None of it sounds good to me. If anything, I’d support a hike in camping rates. We’re there for weeks out of every year and I’d barely notice a nightly rate increase from $30 to $35 per night for full-service sites, for example. The camping experience at Myrtle Beach and Huntington Beach State Parks is an extraordinary value for vacationers. When other oceanfront campgrounds charge double to triple that rate, maybe it’s time for the campers (me included, so I’ll feel the pain too) to take some of the burden.
At the end of the day, I do, still, feel like an annual pass to South Carolina State Parks is a value for our family. It’s only now that I realize it had been a tremendous value in previous years.
My advice, as is the case with any type of season or annual pass, is to make sure you really use it. As a consumer, get your money’s worth. And, in the case of the state park system, be counted. I worked in state government for many years and often higher attendance leads to greater funding.
I’ve spewed my love for the Myrtle Beach State Park in many posts and it lives on. As I’ve said before, it runs so deep that I want to be a campground host so I can weasel my way into living there one day. I’ve joked, kind of seriously, that I want my ashes scattered there. So as you can see, there’s no small amount of passion behind this post.
In 2012, I promise to keep you up-to-date with the latest happenings at the Myrtle Beach State Park. Share them with other families living in and visiting our area. Make their events the meeting place for your playdates and days out with your adult friends. If my family plans to attend, I’ll let you know. We’d love for you to say hi! And if you go without me, tell Rangers Katie and Ann that the MyrtleBeachforFamilies.com family will likely be at the next one.
Want to read more? Check out the latest on the Myrtle Beach for Families blog.