State park director: Closures 'purely business' - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

State park director: Closures 'purely business'

The state’s park director, Greg Lein, said this is the fifth year Alabama legislators removed money from the parks system. (Source: WAFF) The state’s park director, Greg Lein, said this is the fifth year Alabama legislators removed money from the parks system. (Source: WAFF)
HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) -

Five state parks in Central and South Alabama will shut down as a direct result of recent cuts.

The state’s park director, Greg Lein, said this is the fifth year Alabama legislators removed money from the parks system.

He said it’s a $30 million loss, and they've used up all of their reserve funding trying to offset the shortfall.

MORE: 5 parks close, admission fees to others rise

“This is purely a business decision,” said Lein. “We can no longer afford to run these parks or parks facilities.

"The budget has forced our hand on this matter," he continued. "Clearly there is a revenue problem in regards to operating a budget in the state of Alabama."

Alabama lawmakers transferred $3 million from the state park’s division to help balance the general fund budget.

“This will now total $30 million in transfers over the last five years,” said Lein.

Lein said there will now be layoffs and a reduction in operational hours for state parks and their facilities.

Visitors will have to pay more to use the parks. Daily entrance fees will increase from 4 bucks to $5 per person.

There will also be an increase on lodging and marina rental rates.

The Land Trust of North Alabama helps maintain local state parks. The group says the parks are currently bleeding for more funding.

“Maintenance goes pretty much unanswered,” said Mike Dalen, Land Trust of North Alabama Chairman. “They just can't keep up with up their maintenance cause they just keep getting their money taken away.  Salaries of the park employees, the rangers, those salaries have been stagnant, they haven't had a raise in six and seven years.”

Dalen worried that if the state continues slashing funds, the parks will suffer, and so will the people who use them.

He said he would like to see state lawmakers address their biggest issue.

“All the senators, again, not addressing the real issue which is more funding for state government.”  “They're just robbing Peter to pay Paul."

"We hope that these measures are going to take care of the problem, but this is unprecendented in terms of an operational change," said Lein. "There is no record of having done this before, or what the outcome is, so we're in some uncharted territory, so to speak."

Lein said the changes for state parks will go into effect Oct. 1.

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