CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. — A small program is making a big change for Virginia’s state parks and the environment.
Each time a state park’s employee asks you to round up to the next dollar, the money goes towards the “Round Up for Parks” program. The program started in the summer of 2016. The money raised goes towards projects to enhance the guest experience and new amenities for parks.
“Sometimes it’s a nickel, sometimes it’s 50 cents, sometimes it may be a couple of dollars,” Craig Seaver, the Virginia State Parks Director, said. “This has added up to over $30,000 a year in extra funds for state parks.”
This year, state parks officials decided to use the money to install water bottle filling stations throughout the parks system. So far, 31 state parks have had them installed. One was also put in the department’s headquarters in Richmond.
State park officials say more will be installed at the remaining seven parks as money comes in. Each station costs $866 and are installed by park staff. The goal over time is to have several at every state park.
These fountains also count how many times someone uses them to fill up a bottle.
“It’s something that you don’t ever really think about until you have the counter like these fountains do,” Seaver said. “All of a sudden, you’re conscious of the fact that we’ve saved over a thousand water bottles from going into the trash.”
The Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, which oversees the state parks, expects to save more than 200,000 plastic water bottles from being put in landfills with these new fountains.
“Small change can make a big difference,”Nate Clark, Manager – Pocahontas State Park
Funds from the program were used last year to install a bike repair station near the park’s visitor center. More than $12,000 was donated in 2017, which was used for new showers, spotting scopes over the High Bridge Trail and other amenities.
Seaver says the department polls parks employees about what they think the fund could be used to improve. Many also speak with people who go to the parks. If you have an idea for what the “round up” funds could be used for, click here.