5 Alabama state parks to close following budget cuts
MONTGOMERY, Ala. — The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources announced Wednesday the closure of 5 of Alabama’s 22 state parks. Other parks will see reductions in staff and hours, as well as increases in some entrance fees.
The announcement followed shortly after a similar set of closures was announced by the Alabama Law Enforcement Association.
Bladon Springs, Paul Grist, Chickasaw, Florala and Roland Cooper parks will no longer be open to the public as of October 15th, Rickwood Caverns and Blue Springs will be closed during fall and winter, while Desoto and Cheaha Lodge & Restaurant will operate only on the weekends during fall and winter.
The department is also working to transfer responsibility and management of some existing parks to nearby private resorts.
A transfer of Lakepoint’s golf course to a non-state manager is reportedly in the works, but if that is unsuccessful, the course will be closed. Additionally, the Bucks Pocket campground will be transitioned to unstaffed, day-use only park to be managed by a nearby resort park.
“It is with great disappointment that we have to make this announcement today,” said Commissioner of Alabama’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Gunter Guy. “Due to these recurring administrative transfers by the legislature from our department and the impact they’re having on our state parks system’s budget, we are having to make some very difficult decisions to offset the loss of revenue. These five parks were selected for closure because they have consistently lost money over the past several years. However, the Alabama State Park system is important to the majority of the people in this state and I hope that we can find a solution to this budget issue by the next legislative session.”
Alabama’s parks are funded largely by the fees visitors pay to camp, stay in lodges, use facilities, or eat in restaurants while in the parks, but several years of transferring money away from their operating budget have brought the parks to this day.
Those fees will see increases, with the cost of adult entrance moving from $4 to $5 at some parks, while concession and lodging prices will also tick upward.
“We feel like we have been forced to attempt to make up some of the revenue we’re going to lose due to these continued transfers by implementing this contingency plan in advance of the slower fall and winter seasons,” said state parks director Greg Lein. “I assure you this decision was not made without careful consideration. We spent months of tirelessly working to educate the public and legislature on the impact a fifth year of transfers would have on our system, while preparing for this worst case scenario by identifying measures that would have the most minimal impact on our staff, customers and the communities where we exist. We will continue to work with all interested parties to educate everyone on the importance of securing permanent and protected funding that will ensure that the entire park system remains open for all Alabamians throughout this state.”
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— Elizabeth BeShears (@LizEBeesh) January 21, 2015