MONTGOMERY, Ala. – The voters’ faith in the Alabama State Parks System is beginning to pay dividends from Mount Cheaha to the Gulf Coast.
An overwhelming majority of voters last November approved Amendment 2 to prevent money from the Alabama State Parks System being transferred to other agencies covered in the state’s General Fund. Because of its passage, the parks are now able to begin making delayed maintenance and improvements and to budget for long-term projects.
“With Amendment 2 receiving 80 percent of the vote in last November’s election, it’s clear the people of Alabama feel strongly about supporting and maintaining our wonderful State Parks System,” Gov. Kay Ivey said. “I know how important the parks are to their communities, like Roland Cooper is to my hometown of Camden, and I am committed to ensuring they continue to flourish.”
It will take time for the system – funded almost entirely from visitor fees – to recover from five years of depleted resources due to funding transfers; however, progress is being made.
“We have several projects under way that have been postponed because of funding insecurity,” Alabama State Parks Director Greg Lein said. “Many of these are infrastructure projects that may not be necessarily apparent, but are critical to keeping our parks running and providing excellent services to our visitors.”
In North Alabama, Cheaha State Park, DeSoto State Park and Monte Sano State Park are well on the way toward completing delayed projects. Two rustic cabins at DeSoto are undergoing renovations that soon should be completed. At Monte Sano, some structures now have new roofs. Cheaha’s swimming pool is being renovated and converted into a salt-water pool.
“The pool at Cheaha State Park was on the verge of needing to be closed because of how dire the maintenance needs had become in recent years,” Lein said. “Thanks to Amendment 2 those deferred improvements the system couldn’t afford for years and years have now been addressed allowing guests to enjoy yet another wonderful amenity at the park.”
Also, at Joe Wheeler State Park, radar units were purchased for ranger vehicles along with new parking lot blocks at the beach area. “The radars will allow the rangers to stay vigilant in keeping visitors safe and while the parking lot blocks may not be a high-profile item,” Lein said, “they will keep cars where they belong – in the parking lot.”
Lake Lurleen State Park in Tuscaloosa County was able to install 91 new barbecue grills, a project that has been on hold for a while. Oak Mountain State Park, in conjunction with the Shelby County Commission, has re-worked a beach area near its Alabama 119 entrance, added three new fishing and swimming piers, a volleyball court and an Americans with Disabilities Act compliant sidewalk. The county, the park and the Alabama Wildlife Center, located at the park, also cooperated in the financing and construction of enclosures for a Eurasian eagle-owl and two bald eagles. Oak Mountain has also begun replacing batteries for the carts at its busy golf course.
A new split-rail fence has been installed at Rickwood Caverns State Park at the irrigation field, while Wind Creek State Park is replacing showerheads for the campground bathhouse.
Comfort stations have been renovated to include new heating and air-conditioning at Cheaha State Park, Rickwood Caverns State Park, Chewacla State Park, Roland Cooper State Park and Lake Guntersville State Park Lodge and Conference Center. New bedding has been purchased for the lodges at the state’s resort lodges – at Cheaha, DeSoto, Lake Guntersville, Gulf State Park, Joe Wheeler and Lakepoint State Park in Eufaula.
Other parks are replacing lawnmowers and utility vehicles, purchasing new tires for vehicles and repairing rotten wood on cabin porches. There are dozens of other projects being prioritized at Alabama’s State Parks and progress is being made as purchases and work orders are being approved.
“As any homeowner knows, if you let the seemingly small things go unrepaired, they will eventually become large problems. We’re so grateful for the public’s approval of Amendment 2 so that we can get back to the work of caring for the parks and serving the people of Alabama and our visiting tourists,” Lein said.