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Proposed Fee Reduction Could Close State Parks
March 23, 2010
A bill introduced by state Senators Ted Little and Zeb Little has Alabama State Parks officials concerned about the future of the parks system. SB532 proposes a 50 percent reduction in lodging rates and entrance fees for Alabama residents between May 15 and August 15, 2010.
Alabama State Parks Director Mark Easterwood says this reduction in revenue would be devastating to the 22 parks, which generate 94 percent of their income from user fees. “The summer revenue lets the parks operate at a profit during those months. Those revenues are then used to carry the parks through the winter months. The parks operate at a loss between September and March each year,” he said.
According to Parks Operations Director Tim Wishum, 56 percent of park expenses are related to personnel costs. The loss of revenue would require a significant reduction in personnel, which would cause portions of some parks and even some entire parks to close. “Much of our business is from in-state residents, so we would lose a significant portion of our income during the busiest months.”
Parks officials estimate that approximately 90 percent of day-use fees are generated by Alabama residents. Alabama residents generate between 55 and 78 percent of lodging and camping revenues.
Many cities and local tourist boards receive money from lodging taxes generated by the parks. Because of the potential loss of this revenue, several communities near state parks have expressed their opposition to SB532. The city of Pelham has passed a resolution opposing the bill. Fort Payne Mayor William H. Jordan also opposes the bill. In a letter to Senator Lowell Barron, Jordan states that the bill would be detrimental to the local economy because of a reduction in lodging taxes.
“We feel our rates are reasonably priced,” Easterwood said. “Lowering them just isn’t feasible when we receive no General Fund appropriation. The parks won’t be able to continue operating.”
The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources promotes wise stewardship, management and enjoyment of Alabama’s natural resources through five divisions: Marine Police, Marine Resources, State Lands, State Parks, and Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries. To learn more about ADCNR, visit www.outdooralabama.com .