The plan was demagogued to death by opponents. For a couple of years — until the economy turned around — the people of Alabama had to do with fewer state services. One of the benefits that was cut was access to state parks.
This hurt on many levels.
“Ordinary” Alabamians — those who can’t afford the high-rise condos and upscale hotels where the affluent vacation — consider state parks their resorts and use them accordingly. They stayed home. As a result, state tourism lagged.
It also was a self-defeating strategy because state parks generate revenue in areas outside the confines of the parks. Visitors buy gasoline to make the trip, thus supporting roads, and spend money in local businesses, thus boosting the sagging economy.
If the General Fund budget the Alabama House of Representatives is proposing becomes law, we may see history repeat itself.
Alabama’s state parks are down to the bare bones because they already have absorbed significant cuts over the past two years. The additional cuts being proposed will mean jobs will be lost and the public may lose access to parks during the winter months — a time when visitors from the North come down for milder weather.
Not generally known is that the state provides only about 10 percent of the general operating funds for its parks. The rest comes from entrance fees, rentals and other revenue sources. But it is a critical 10 percent, as we shall see if it is cut.
Faced with the possible loss of these funds, state park officials are scrambling to figure out how to deal with the consequences. Will they cut jobs, close parks, limit hours or raise fees (which is raising taxes, though the anti-tax crowd won’t admit it)?
The budget cutters also won’t admit that Alabama is taking the “state” out of state parks. If this continues, we might as well call the agency “Alabama Parks” rather than “Alabama State Parks.” That’s what it will be.
This provision in the House budget is expected to meet opposition in the Senate. This page hopes the opposition will prevail and the state parks receive the revenue they need to carry them through this crisis.