Alabama’s State Parks Partners coalition hosted a meeting this week to inform the public about the fight to protect Alabama’s State Parks funding. Park supporters and community activists gathered at Cheaha State Park to have a conversation about the park system’s budget problems and discuss the constitutional amendment that has been proposed to permanently protect the park system’s funding.
Since 2012 more than $15 million has been transferred from the park system’s budget to the state’s General Fund. Because of these funding transfers, five parks closed and many others limited hours and cut services. Philip Darden, Alabama Parks Partners chair, led the discussion about how these transfers have devastated the parks in all corners of the state.
“This constitutional amendment is crucial for the future of our parks system,” Darden said. “If the parks do not know what their budget is from year to year, let alone if they’re even going to keep all the money they made at the parks, they cannot schedule and plan regular maintenance and upgrades. If the parks’ funding is protected, the system will be able to create long- and short-term plans and priorities, which is impossible to do now with the Legislature continually transferring funds.”
Alabama Parks Partners coalition is encouraging everyone who enjoys and appreciates the state parks to get involved in the fight to protect the system’s funding. The bill to protect Alabama’s State Parks funding is moving through the Alabama Legislature and individuals are encouraged to ask legislators to support this bill. If this bill passes through the Legislature, the constitutional amendment would then be brought to a vote of the people on the November ballot.
“We appreciate everything our partners do for our parks,” said Kelly Ezell, the State Parks Central District Superintendent. “The parks rely heavily on our partners to build and maintain trails, host events and build new attractions. The parks are what they are today because of the partners, including individuals, organizations and businesses, that invest time, money and resources into making our parks better. We’re so fortunate to have such an incredible community of park supporters.”
Alabama’s Parks Partners formed last year in response to the threat of a fifth year of funding transfers from the parks. The coalition consists of local park support groups, community organizations, businesses and individuals who have an interest in helping Alabama’s State Parks system thrive. Those interested in joining the fight to protect Alabama’s State Parks funding can visit ALParksPartners.com to get involved.
Alabama State Parks Partners are hosting a second meeting on March 8 at Lake Guntersville State Park at 6:30 p.m.
Alabama’s State Parks Partners coalition is a diverse group of businesses, nonprofits and individuals who came together to stand up for the Alabama State Park System, advocate for a balanced budget for the parks and raise money for improvements and projects at the parks.