Georgia cuts funding, jobs at local state park

By Andrew Wittenberg  - bio | email | Twitter

LUMPKIN, GA (WTVM) - Big cuts are on the way for Georgia's state parks.

Revenues are expected to fall and layoffs are on the horizon.

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources is reducing staff at five of the state's 63 state parks and historical sites.

Over the years, there have been some famous faces visit Providence Canyon State Park, one of the five parks to get bad news.

Names like John Wayne and General George Patton have seen one of the seven wonders of Georgia.

Thursday, kids from St. Luke Methodist Church were taking in the sights and a sandwich.

Jeremy Pownall has been there for two summers.

"These are the kinds of places the kids can go to. We can't afford to take them to Six Flags or take them across the country," Pownall said.

But the next group of kids may find itself lost when coming for a visit.

The state is subtracting nearly 40 percent of state park funding because of a projected loss of revenue.

Kim Hatcher is the Public Affairs coordinator for Georgia's Department of Natural Resources.

"We're at a point where we have no other choice but to make these changes to meet the 39 percent reduction in our budget," Hatcher said.

The DNR is cutting 12 percent of its workforce within the 63 state parks, which means all but one person at Providence Canyon could be laid off.

The visitors center and picnic shelter will also be closed for good.

The goal is to find operators who can maintain the parks with minimal funding from the State.

"So, the change that visitor's are going to see is not having access to the visitor's center and not having access to the picnic shelter," Hatcher said.

In addition to the layoffs and employee furloughs, the Georgia DNR says it will look at reducing some of its parks hours and increasing some of their fees.