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State backs off on fees at Kettle Cove in Cape Elizabeth, Mackworth Island in Falmouth

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State backs off on fees at Kettle Cove in Cape Elizabeth, Mackworth Island in Falmouth

CAPE ELIZABETH — The state Bureau of Parks and Lands on Wednesday announced visitors will not have to pay mandatory entrance fees at two popular state parks starting in May.

Instead, Gov. John Baldacci directed the state agency to allow visitors to Kettle Cove in Cape Elizabeth and Mackworth Island in Falmouth to voluntarily pay the fees by dropping money into "iron ranger" boxes.

Earlier in the week, the bureau had announced it would post park rangers and require entrance fees at Kettle Cove, Mackworth Island and Colonial Pemaquid in New Harbor. 

But in a statement issued Wednesday, Baldacci said he was "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."

Maine residents will still be asked to contribute $2 at Kettle Cove and Mackworth. Visitors from out of state will be asked for $3, and the requested fee for children 5 to 11 years old will be $1. Children under 5 and seniors will not be asked to contribute.

At Colonial Pemaquid, visitors will be asked to pay the voluntary fee to enter the museum, the Fort House and the Fort William Henry area. No fee will be requested for the boat ramp and restaurant, or to enter a privately owned cemetery.

Town Manager Michael McGovern said he was pleased to see the state revise the fee policy at Kettle Cove.

"I'm happy they decided to back off," he said. "They clearly hadn't thought through the logistics."

The mandatory fees were expected to generate $110,000 to $120,000 per season to help maintain service at state parks.

Will Harris, director of the parks bureau, said the the iron rangers will be set up at Mackworth Island on May 15 and at Kettle Cove on May 23.

He said the bureau supports the governor's decision, and although the voluntary fee structure may not raise as much revenue, it will be much less controversial than collecting the fees.

"We were projecting about $15,000 in revenue for (the remainder of fiscal year 2010) and $97,000 for (fiscal 2011)," he wrote in an e-mail Wednesday. "We would expect less with voluntary iron rangers."

Harris said visitors can expect entrance fees at other parks, too. "We will be installing iron rangers at several other parks across the state," he said.

McGovern said he is sure the change in fees will affect the amount of revenue generated, but he hopes people will contribute. 

"State parks are a valuable resource, and they need our support," the town manager said.

Amy Anderson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or aanderson@theforecaster.net