Archived Story

Park might face cuts

Published 11:56am Friday, March 22, 2013

State legislation could have negative impact on Wind Creek funds

Legislation pending in the Alabama House and Senate will have an impact on the operation of Alabama’s state parks – including Wind Creek State Park – according to Director Greg Lein.

“We’re concerned about this and what it means to our operations and how we serve the public,” Lein said.

According to House Bill 154, money that has historically been granted to the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources – a sum of $5 million – would be transferred to the General Fund.

“It hasn’t moved out of committee, and we think it’s largely being abandoned in support of this other bill,” Lein said.

Senate Bill 143, which is currently pending committee action in the House of Representatives, states that of the money appropriated to the Alabama Department of Conservation of Natural Resources, a sum of $7.8 million would be transferred to the General Fund.

Additionally, Senate Bill 100 provides “for the transfer of certain state funds into the State General Fund to help offset the costs of services provided by agencies which receive appropriations from the State General Fund.”

“That bill allows the legislature to transfer funds from agencies like ours to the General Fund,” Lein said. “It’s like your employer saying, ‘We’re not going to cut your pay, but now you’re going to have to pay a service fee to us for keeping the lights on around here.”

While the $7.8 million transfer would come from the umbrella of the ADCNR, Lein said the only division that money could be pulled from, or at least the majority of the money, would be the State Parks Division.

Lein said the end results is that, if these bills pass, state parks will take a hit.

“Without these funds, if these legislative cuts do take place, we’ll have to take significant actions,” Lein said.

The impact would include Wind Creek State Park.

“This is where the rubber hits the road,” said park superintendent Jimmy Shivers. “If they take $7.8 million … there’s going to be some facilities closing, there’s going to be employee layoffs – we’re going to have to make the money some way.”

Shivers said one plan might be to close the store for several months out of the year or close the camper registration entrance and move it to the store.

“If we do that, we’re consolidating two facilities, so we would probably have to let some people go,” Shivers said.

Other options to supplement revenue might be, Shivers said, to increase rates or add new rates, like a parking fee.

Lein said ADCNR understand the challenges the state is facing with the General Fund, “but we have a responsibility also.”

Shivers agreed.

“I’m concerned about Wind Creek State Park,” Shivers said. “There’s two ways we can make this a go – make employee cuts or raise rates.

“We’re just trying to figure out a way to generate revenue.”