Alabama state parks could face funding cuts

Alabama state parks could face funding cuts

AUBURN, AL (WTVM) - The Alabama State Legislature is considering a number of cuts in attempt to balance the state budget. One of these includes a $5 million reduction in state park funding, including Auburn's Chewacla State Park.

"It's going to be felt at all parks so no matter where you live, if you're close to a park or visit  a park you will see the cuts and rate increases that will come about if this happens," explains Chewacla State Park manager, Odell Banks.

Chewacla State Park currently has four full-time employees and two to three seasonal positions.

If House Bill 154 passes, these positions could be cut, impacting park maintenance.

"I think the picture people get from the park would change from a nice clean facility to one that's rundown and needs a lot more attention," says Banks.

We spoke Alabama Deputy Commissioner of Conservation and Natural Resources, Curtis Jones, over the phone who explained where the parks revenue comes from and how these cuts will impact his agencies 22 venues.

"We operate 95 percent of our budget on user fees. We do not get general fund money," explains Jones. "The only money we got which is being threatened of not coming back to us is the use tax dollars of five million and about two to three million on cigarette tax and that's all we've ever gotten outside our user fees."

One of the alternatives is to raise entry fees into state parks.

However, it seems that an increase in fees at Chewacla will not keep the public away.

"Maybe prices will go up for regular people, but I would still come here, it's an awesome place," says park visitor Sean Lucas.

House Bill 154 has been voted out of committee and is expected to go to the full legislature next week.

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