Auburn residents weigh in on Alabama state parks

Auburn residents weigh in on Alabama state parks

(WTVM) - Chewacla State Park in Auburn is one of Alabama's 22 state parks that offers guests a temporary escape from city life year round.

Nearly 100 people gathered in the Auburn City Council chambers Monday to hear how parks like Chewacla are run and suggest ways to make it better.

"The general public does not understand how the park system operates. They think it's a system that relies on tax dollars much like a city park would. Actually, we are running what people call a 'user-pay system', where the park is operating through the revenues of the people who come in the park," explains Alabama State Parks Director, Greg Lein.

Chewacla ranks as number 11 in the state for usage with 81,000 visitors each year. It also ranks as number 11 in revenue bringing in $400,000 a year.

"Chewacla takes in about $400,000 of revenue in a given year and its operational expenses are around $290,000. It's well in the black," says Lein.

Chewacla's standing is in part thanks to the mountain biking community.

CAMP, or the Central Alabama Mountain Peddlers, donated trails to the park two years ago which have become the most popular recreational activity.

"It has been just an explosion of population change. I know the annual from 2010 to 2013 there has been 14,000 more people visiting the park so we've had a really big impact in those two years," explains CAMP President, Philip Darden.

Lein described the state park financial status as stable after the maintenance funds in last year's legislative session were restored.

"We've had some challenges in the last couple of years, but right now we are stable and we're very optimistic because the more people realize as visitors they're paying for everything I think they would have a better appreciation for going out and supporting the parks," says Lein.

A large group of people in the crowd were in favor of constructing equestrian trails at Chewacla in the near future.

Other suggestions included a zip-line course or recreational fees all creating new revenue for the park.

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