Rail trail enthusiasts got an early Christmas present in November, when members of the Kansas Wildlife, Parks and Tourism Commission voted to rescind the user fee for the Prairie Spirit Trail, a 51-mile state park stretching from Iola to Ottawa.
Previously, a $3.50 daily fee or $12.50 annual fee was levied for trail users. While difficult to enforce, the fee, though nominal, always carried the threat that violators could be punished. Indeed, for the first couple of years within the local trails opening in 2008, KDWPT rangers, perhaps on the trail to clear fallen branches or repair washouts, would stop trail-users and ask to see their permits.
Most times, charging an entrance fee for state parks makes sense. After all, they require occasional maintenance. But in the case of the trails, the fee system worked against the inherent spontaneity of going for a walk, run, or bike ride.