A roughly 10% budget reduction experienced by the Maryland Park Service this year is causing a local state park to cut services this month, according to the state agency.
As of Nov. 12, Point Lookout State Park in Scotland closed its long pier for night fishing, about three weeks earlier than usual, until April 15 of next year. While boaters will still be permitted to use the boat launch after sunset, they are encouraged to contact the park beforehand to arrange access.
Some fishermen are unhappy with the changes regarding the night fishing at the park.
Lee Bishop, a resident of Charles County, said he has been fishing at the Point Lookout pier since it was built in the late 1960s, and that it has been open for night fishing in the Chesapeake Bay since day one.
After trying to use the pier on the first night of its early closure, Bishop said he asked a park ranger the reason for the change in policy. He was told that the park was experiencing funding issues.
“They wasted a couple hundred grand on new toll booths … my tax money built that pier and that park,” Bishop said, claiming he should still have access.
“Sandy Point [State Park] is still open [for night fishing] and other parks are still open,” he said. According to Bishop, he spoke to a Sandy Point employee on the phone who seemed surprised to hear about Point Lookout’s early pier closure.
The park’s public statement about the change identifies the winter hours as “part of a statewide plan for the parks to remain within their allocated budget” and specified “costs associated with providing 24-hour access to the park, such as cleaning facilities, snow removal, providing restroom facilities, trash removal, and staff time” as infeasible to maintain during winter months.
The plan is meant to accommodate a budget reduction, according to the park service’s communication’s office, and suspension of night fishing will provide approximately $1,200 per month in cost savings at Point Lookout State Park.
Point Lookout usually suspends night fishing at the end of November each year and restarts in the spring, according to an attendant at the state park.
A reporter from The Enterprise reached out to Sen. Jack Bailey (R-St. Mary’s, Calvert) for comments regarding the budget reduction for state parks, but he did not respond by press time. Bailey is also a retired Maryland natural resources police officer.
A spokesperson for Bailey said Tuesday that the state senator’s office has inquired about the change to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, and is still waiting for information.