State parks face budget cuts - WRBL

State parks face budget cuts

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AUBURN, Ala. -

Your local state park may not be as picturesque if proposed budget cuts take place.

Over 4.5 million people visited Alabama's state parks last year, but one house bill is targeting all 22 parks with $5 million in cuts from essential tax dollars.

Chewacla State Park in Auburn hosts a variety of amenities on its 696 acres, but if lawmakers cut state park funding one of the first things to be affected would be staff. Seasonal workers might lose their jobs, leading to shorter park hours and a big change in maintenance.

Park manager Odell Banks says if cuts go into effect, "You come in the grass will be knee high instead of cut and trimmed. The cabins may not be as clean as they should be because of personnel cuts."

Angela Head brings her family to camp at least three times a year and says state parks aren't the place for cutbacks. "We live in a society today where the kids have such an emphasis on electronics and on television," she says, "and there's not as much emphasis on getting outdoors and enjoying nature and enjoying what these parks have to offer."

Chewacla is one of the only state parks to gain a profit last year, and locals say they will continue to support their campground no matter what.

Just last year the park added 15 miles of new bike trail. President of the Central Alabama Mountain Pedalers Mack Story says cuts at the park would be counterproductive. "We're seeing usage in the park basically about double, about 75% increase just in the last year," he says, "and we're just really getting started here."

Head agrees, saying she would even be willing to pay higher taxes to keep the parks running on all cylinders. She says, "It is incredibly important that we continue the funding for these state parks to be able to provide opportunities for the children to get out."

Georgia has already been approved for park cuts. Starting in April, trash cans will be removed from recreation areas along the Chattahoochee River, making visitors responsible for their own waste.

A representative from the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources says reserve funds for the state parks have already been used up.

Jessi Mitchell

Jessi joined the WRBL news team in October 2012 after working as a freelance production assistant for MTV Networks in Los Angeles.
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