State parks to reduce access, services; eliminate more than 170 jobs

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources, reeling from a 39 percent state budget cut, announced a series of “heart-wrenching” moves Wednesday designed to deal with the spending cuts and a 24 percent drop in revenue. 

Access and services at five state parks will be reduced, operational days will drop at 12 historic sites and fees for lodging, recreation and and parking will increase as well. 

“These decisions were heart-wrenching, but were made using a business-case analysis,” DNR commissioner Chris Clark said. “We are exploring every avenue to manage budget reductions and revenue shortfalls, to properly care for our state parks and historic sites and to minimize the impact on Georgia citizens and communities.”

Part of the reorganization will be finding ways for parks, historic sites, golf courses and other DNR properties to become more self-sustaining. Clark said the agency would also explore privatizing operations of lodges and golf courses. 

“Outsourcing agreements will be used only if they maintain affordable and high-quality services that are more cost-effective than our own operations,” state parks and historic sites director Becky Kelley said. 

If that’s not possible, she said, or if cuts and loss of revenue continues, “further cuts and potential closures of lodges and golf courses are possible.”

Among the changes:

43 comments Add your comment

Herd89

May 28th, 2009
8:54 am

This news is so sad. With so many families are struggling financially, I know that they count on having access to the state parks as a nice way to treat the family to a mini-vacation or family adventure on a very limited budget. I pray this economy turns around soon.

tony

May 28th, 2009
9:08 am

all this and the higher ups got new blackberries just this month. most of the employees laid off are 20 year employees.stay and see Ga. with no place to go with these closing great job

Mike W.

May 28th, 2009
9:13 am

The pool closings at many Georgia State Parks this summer has forced us to re-arrange our summer camping schedule. Our kids have enjoyed “Alligator Day” at Florence Marina State Park for the last four years, but we decided not to go this year since the pool will not be open.

[...] State parks to reduce access and services. More than 170 jobs eliminated. [...]

andy

May 28th, 2009
9:23 am

I used to donate a portion of my tax refund each year to the state parks.

Then, Georgia decided that because I’m gay that I have less rights than everyone else. So, they cannot have my donation anymore!

Mike Jones

May 28th, 2009
9:32 am

6 months from now. We will Growing food in these state parks just to survive.

Anthony

May 28th, 2009
9:35 am

If you didn’t know it, there are great recreational sites in your own backyard. You don’t have to travel hours for great golf courses, fishing, camping, and nature locations. USE YOUR STATE PARKS! Camping and golf courses are in jeopardy. They are great deals that will truly be missed when they are gone.

Mike

May 28th, 2009
9:59 am

More proof that raising fees will not increase revenues (at least from me) because where I used to purchase an annual pass at $30 I will not be buying one at $50. If they kept it at $30 or reduced it I would renew.

Former State Worker

May 28th, 2009
10:01 am

Yeah all of these cuts, yet I saw in the proposed budget where construction will start on the park at Don Carter………………If money is so tight why in the world are they proposing to build anything new???? Also the way the news about this was presented to the employees was DEAD wrong and cold hearted. IF the DNR had used a little foresight and quit holding all these $$$$$$$ conferences for the managers and rangers maybe some of this could have been avoided. Yeah privatize the parks again….. how did that turn out the last time when AMFAC ran them??????

Daddy FatSachs

May 28th, 2009
10:09 am

This message goes to Mike – so you are saying you cant fork out another $20 for an ANNUAL pass, to help state parks? That makes absolutely no sense. You are just as bad as the lawmakers slashing these budgets. Its 20 DOLLARS. And you want them to REDUCE the amount? Get with it sir. Have you watched the news?

Park

May 28th, 2009
10:09 am

The best way to change all of this is for people to get off the couch and visit their state parks and historic site more often. The more they are used by the public the better and more accessible they will be.

Slugworth

May 28th, 2009
10:10 am

Oh the irony… on the same day this was announced our Governor was up at Lake Lanier championing the opening of the Laurel Park Boat Ramp — part of his multi-million $ Go Fish program.

joe

May 28th, 2009
10:21 am

If you raise the fees people will not go. It is simple economics, I stopped going to state parks back in the nineties when they started charging for parking! It went from free to $2 and the state said it was for improvements, every time government imposes a tax they will raise it short term to add more to their coffers.
YOU WILL LOSE more patrons if you raise your fees during a recession, it shows you who is running the show.

joe

May 28th, 2009
10:23 am

I will get off my couch, go for a run, a nice walk, a bike ride, etc. This will all be free, they way it should be, because it will be all around the state parks, just not in them. I am not paying the state to go outdoors!

Adittohead

May 28th, 2009
10:30 am

All these abled bodies whinning…..call your neatest park & volunteer. Get off the couch & do volunteer work.

Delmar

May 28th, 2009
10:32 am

As long as our elected officials get their raises, benefits, and retirements, I’m happy.

Slugworth

May 28th, 2009
10:38 am

This is only the beginning. Wait until you get the next round of closure announcements on Oct. 1. Hey, we elected these folks on the platform of not raising taxes… and giving millions more in tax breaks every year to well-heeled special intrests. What do you expect.

Rockhound

May 28th, 2009
10:48 am

The park organizations have run off the amatuer geologists. For many years they have allowed surface collecting of minerals (such as our state mineral, staurolite) on State and Federal owned lands; however, without warning, they have reversed these rules. They have suddenly started arresting collectors and charging them with destruction of public proberty and removal of public property. Furthermore, they confiscate any mineral samples or tools the collectors have with them at the time, and threaten to search their home for any other minerals that “MAY” have been taken from a park. The rocks in minerals in question have no intrinsic value except to collectors, and the collecting methods employeed by the collectors in question protected the beauty of OUR parks. They used to support responsible collecting as an environmentally sound hobby, but now label it as vandalism and theft. Due to the harassment tactics of some overzealous park rangers (putting up cameras to keep people from “stealing” small rocks), I don’t forsee any support or sympathy from my fellow rock collectors.

Blake

May 28th, 2009
10:52 am

Andy, the parks do not care whether you are gay or not, they could still use your support if you enjoy the parks.

Joe, you are a whiner. You must be sad sack if you could not afford two dollars in the 90s.

Look folks, times are tough and we all are struggling in one way or another. The parks have been and will continue to be a great value for the dollar. I was at Yargo last weekend and had a great time. I was at Unicoi a month ago – had a great time. Each time I paid my five dollar parking fee and didn’t complain. How much would it cost to take the family to see a movie and out to eat? I heck of a lot more than five dollars. These are parks are a treasure to the State of Georgia. I will continue to do my part to support their operation.

Ursula

May 28th, 2009
11:11 am

Andy – You have the same rights as everyone else.

However, because you feel entitled to EXTRA rights that you aren’t yet getting, you throw a tantrum.

Grow Up and Get Over Your Self-Righteousness, Loser.

Rockhound

May 28th, 2009
11:15 am

Before the gramar police get me. In my earlier post, “proberty” should read property. I am not sure how that typo happened.

Tucker

May 28th, 2009
11:25 am

Wouldn’t it be nice if state and local governments would do business-care analyses instead of business-case analyses?

paul

May 28th, 2009
11:33 am

i dont see the $2 or $20 being too much to afford, it’s more of a question if i should put that money towards something else, i.e. food, house payment, medicine, etc. yes, the economy is horrible right now, but we did this to ourselves by voting in this administration — we only have ourselves to blame

Tom

May 28th, 2009
11:37 am

With the budget cuts from the Legislature, DNR had very few choices. It cannot deficit spend like the federal government or California.

Fact is that maintenance of the parks costs money. Not enough people are using the parks at the current fee to pay for the maintenance without Legislative subsidy.

DNR’s only choice was to close parks, reduce services, raise fees, or do a combination of the three. They chose a combo. Object to their choice, but they did not have a good option to chose from.

NOW – Your only choice is to keep the parks by using them and paying the increased fee, or risk losing more parks by not using them and paying the fee.

BTW, the fee is per car, not per person. When a movie theater raises its prices $0.50 per ticket, does anyone with a family of 4 complain as much as the previous commentors?

Park Mugger

May 28th, 2009
11:50 am

Hey, it is great for us criminals and poachers,etc. The sorry azzed self serving, state legislators and Oaky Woods Sonny have been cutting rangers and services for years to fund the pet pork projects they and their political hack friends have been involved with. What else is new? Scratch my back and I will scratch yours is the name of the game in crooked Georgia politics since the days of ole Hummon-the-crook Talmadge!!!!

Oh yeah, don’t forget that you could die from injuries if you are a hour away from Atlanta, Macon, or Augusts (Level 1 trauma centers) just because the same political hack/crooks are more interested in their pockets than your health and safety!!!

Park Mugger

May 28th, 2009
12:02 pm

BTW, I am all for “if you play,you pay fees” but totally against pol hacks cutting DNR park rangers
and wildlife rangers to fund pork projects. Remember the poor girl murdered by the scumbag psycho in the N Ga park? Perhaps she could have been saved if an additional ranger had been walking the trail that day.

Why did the Guv and pol friends spend millions on a new fishing pond in Houston County just last year when parks were hurting for funds? It would not be because he is from Houston would it????

jim

May 28th, 2009
12:51 pm

Andy, you are provided the ALL of the same rights and protections under the law that the rest of us enjoy as it relates to sexual orientation. Moreover, you are provided rights and protections that some of us do not have; as I also cannot marry a member of my same biological sex, a member of my immediate family, anyone under the legal age of consent, or a species outside of the human race. These are just a few examples of whom or what I cannot marry based on our states laws. Yes, it is true that there is some legislation that gives preferential treatment to some groups of people over others, and this may or may not apply to you. For example, you may not be an ethnic minority, or a woman, in which case you would not benefit from the rights and protections afforded these groups of people that is unique to them alone. However, as a gay person, you do have special rights conferred upon you that many of us do not enjoy. Regarding sexual orientation, you recieve extra-ordinary protection under the law based on your preferences, as it pertains to “Hate Crimes Legislation,” and the “Equal Opportunity Act,” both of which confer upon you special protections and rights that do not equally apply to many of your fellow Georgians. I think that what you meant to say is that you wish the state of Georgia would legalize same sex marriage so that all Georgians (not just gay) could enjoy the benefits of this additional privelege under the law.

But hey, as long as we’re holding back on our charitable contributions, I too will discontinue support for our park system. Well, at least until heroin is legal. After all, why should alcohol drinkers have all the rights!

Michele

May 28th, 2009
2:19 pm

This is a sad day for Georgia citizens. The State Parks are a wonderful resource that provides much-needed low-cost recreation and *exercise* options. A healthy population is cheaper. These cutbacks will only cost more later in other important ways. So very sad.

We spent my husband’s birthday last month in Cloudland Canyon and just this past weekend hiked trails in Unicoi and Smithgall Woods. The services will be missed by this Georgia taxpayer!

librarian

May 28th, 2009
2:53 pm

Go to your local library and check out a state park pass. With your library card it is free as long as you return it on time. The kit also includes a pass to some historical sites.

Mac & Marcie

May 28th, 2009
3:24 pm

It cost us $40 to take our two Grandchildren to the movies for two hours and $4.00 to go to the park for the day….hum, value for money? I’ll gladly pay $50 for 52 weekends of educational fun! We would gladly pay twice that amount to keep our parks open, clean and safe.

DebBo

May 28th, 2009
3:34 pm

I read the comments posted and some are just stupid. Your views of “now they won’t get my money” is part of the problem anyway. Go through the parking lot in any state park and see how many cars don’t even purchase the daily pass. It has always been on the “honor system” and we lost that years ago. Read the articles again – the only parks closed are areas where there aren’t any real activity, exception Hart. Cloudland and Unicoi will continue to be open.
Simple fact – it has been too cheap all along, too many people don’t respect the need to pay the small fees and haven’t! If everyone takes rocks, minerals and etc. out of the parks – how long before there isn’t anything for the rest of us to see? Come on GA. if you care about the State Park system support it now! Check out librarian – how many of you even knew that? Seems there hasn’t been as many of you using the parks after all. Former Worker – ever wonder why you were cut? Think about your work ethics no one is guarenteed a job. The good book tells us to be diligent with our work.

Daedalus

May 28th, 2009
3:54 pm

I’m not gay, but I’m not a homophobe either. If you think gays are treated like anyone else in Georgia then you failed to read the Constitutional amendment y’all voted for. Not only does it ban gay marriage, it also prevents courts from upholding any civil union benefits — even if the local government or corporation –chose to recognize them. Since bashing gays is a guaranteed vote-getter in Georgia for the wingnuts, why is anyone surprised that gays and lesbians feel unwelcome in this state.

I stopped giving money to the Georgia wildlife and environmental funds years ago when Sonny Perdue and his good old boys kept taking that $$$ for pork projects in rural areas.

Giving the high level of homophobia in this state, I can’t blame Andy for his feeling about state government. I live in the city and the state takes our tax dollars to fund rural and suburban road projects without giving us anything in return except the finger — why should I give the state more $$$? Then, after siphoning off urban tax dollars for rural/suburban pork, y’all have the gall to claim that you don’t want your tax dollars helping Atlanta. (Got news for you, you don’t help us, we give you welfare.)

But at least Guvnuh Curly’s ‘Go Fish’ program is fully funded.

P.S. What’s the quickest way to get to Alabama from Little 5 Points? Answer: 20 miles in any direction. Once you are outside the perimeter, its all Alabama.

jim

May 28th, 2009
4:14 pm

Do you have a problem with Alabama Daedalus?

Rockhound

May 28th, 2009
5:00 pm

DebBo, Most rockhounds respect the environment and the natural beauty of our parks and have gladly paid any requested donation, such as parking fees. We would even be willing to pay a reasonable fee to collect. Our big problem, with what is going on is the sudden (no warning) reversal of established practice of the rangers. They went from encouraging the hobby to a Big Brother/Gestapo approach. This is due to the laws governing such land use are extremely vague and open to interpretation. We would support them cracking down on the few collectors that don’t practice environmentally sound collecting practices, but leave the ones that take care to eliminate the environmental impact of their collecting alone. As for there being nothing left to see, unless you are a fellow rockhound, you wouldn’t even notice the mineral samples that we collect, much less miss them. The samples that we collect are usually smaller than a thumbnail. If you have been to a park, chances are you have walked by a collection site and not even noticed it. Most people going to parks enjoy the trees, waterfalls, lakes, and etc. There is nothing wrong with that as I enjoy those things too. Rockhounds just choose to also look down. Mineral collecting has been going on since before the European settlers arrived. Guess what, there is still plenty to look at and do. We couldn’t possibly collect everything. Where would we put it?

RichardP

May 28th, 2009
5:17 pm

I am a 19 year employee of the state parks and was just told I do not have a job anymore on June 15. I have loved my job with the parks and am crushed as are my family members. Our parks are a treasure and it was a pleasure to work in them for so many years. Whatever you may think of state workers, a good many of us were proud to wear the uniform and represented the state well.

Charles Boarden

May 28th, 2009
6:17 pm

Richard P,

You got paid for 19 years for something we all do for fun. Instead, I work in a lousy building all day long. Tough – now go find a real job.

Charles Boarden
charles_boarden@homedepot.com
Home Depot – Atlanta, GA

quams

May 28th, 2009
6:58 pm

I am a state employee for a park in georgia. I love my job! I am a
housekeeper. I take pride in everything I do. I do my best to make sure your cabins are spotless. What people do not understand in the cutbacks are the people that do not respect the parks. It takes alot of money to run a park. We have alot of people that do not respect the park or the
cottages they stay in. It takes alot of money to supply these cottages with linen and furniture. We often find the funiture broken, stolen, moved out doors. We receive no respect! People get drunk puke in our beds; let their children draw all over the walls, frankly shit on the floors, shit in the beds. What do you people want. All I hear is a bunch of people that have no repect what so ever for the park or the
people that work there. Frankly, I an sick and tired of drunk golfers, family reunuines and the rest of the people that steal everything and have no respect for the staff of a georgia state park. Also, a state park is not a resort, maybe if the state parks stopped suppling people with a full cottage of soap, toilet tissue, toweles ( that you tend to use to change or check your oil in your cars, whipe up your wine that does not come out, puke, piss, bleed, or anything else that
seems fitting for you. You steal, break and do not care about the people that have to clean up after you or your dogs. Speaking of your dogs – obey the rules! Do you think I like cleaning up after your dog
hair, dog piss, dog puke! Dogs are not allowed on the beds or furniture, they are not to be left alone at anytime in the cottage! Well, I guess no one person has to abide by the rules when it comes to your dog I guess it is ok! Sorry, that I may be complaining but I can
t understand that I have to loose my job because of a bunch people that rent cottages, campgrounds and just trash them.

Former State Worker

May 29th, 2009
7:07 am

Debo I agree with some of your points….. To many people have abused the parkpass system, believe me I used to be one of the ones to collect the money from the boxes. Empty envelopes and many cars in the parking lots without a pass. Then they would not enforce the rules and write tickets to the violators……………… Folks support your parks they are cheap and very accessible for you to enjoy……
As far as leaving the parks system, I chose to leave for a better opportunity at a better job that would lead to a better life. Not because I was cut or fired. As a matter of fact when I left the area manager tried numerous times to get me to stay. I have no problem as far as work ethic goes……..I worked my tail off for 10 years for the park system. That is a idiotic statement about someone you have no clue about………….. You obviously have not worked for the park system huh???? Those are some of the lowest paid jobs there are, yet most of the people who occupy those positions are hard workers and still get crapped on. Anyone who has worked in the system has seen good employees come and go because the lack of pay and advancement……..
RichardP thank you for your service it is appreciated…….. Charles did you ever think that you had a choice in which career path to take………. You chose to work at HomeDepot, nobody made you accept that position……. Just because someone got to work outside and you didn’t is no reason to make a stupid comment like that. I still have friends that work for the parks… I can arrange you a weekend of volunteer working with them and we’ll see who has the “real” job…………. I bet you don’t have to haul garabage off the park or be knee deep in sewage when a pipe bursts at 2am or be out on a trail looking for a lost kid in a driving rainstorm…… I could go on and on and on……..

Another former DNR Employee

May 29th, 2009
8:44 am

I appreciate the support of so many for DNR’s Parks and Historic Sites Division. What is not said is that one reason for the lack of economic success for the parks can be directly laid at the feet of state legislators. While it may seem desirable to have parks scattered throughout the state, in reality many parks have been established as “jobs programs” in various state representatives districts. These decisions are the result of our legislative process, not decisions by DNR.

Parks employees are generally underpaid, and most have a strong love of the environment. Park managers live on the parks – essentially taking on 7 x 24 responsibilities. This is not a “theoretical” 7 x 24, but any time there is trouble on the park they must be alerted.

The budget crisis is severe and will not be resolved quickly. Outsourcing is a farce — it is only a way of taking a politically sensitive issue and handing it off to someone else to either run lodges and/or golf courses into the ground or to raise costs beyond those that are politically feasible for the agency itself.

Hunters and anglers prepare. After Parks are sucked dry, you’ll be the next target.

Very Sad

May 29th, 2009
10:22 am

Wednesday will go down in the history books as one of the worst days in State Parks and Historic Sites history. I work for this organization and used to tell everyone how proud I was of Parks and Historic Sites. I was part of a huge wonderful family. I can no longer say that nor can I talk about having one of the best jobs in the state. You do not treat family this way. It’s shameful.

Misty

May 30th, 2009
5:54 pm

Very Sad – I agree. Wednesday was one of the saddest days in park history, and it sounds like it’s not over. But don’t lay the blame at DNR’s feet. The blame lies under the gold dome, and nowhere else. Our legislators didn’t want to look like the bad guys, naming which facilities needed to be closed or outsourced, so instead they simply slashed the Parks budget by 40%, leaving it to DNR to decide what to do with what’s left, causing DNR to look like the bad guys. They’re not. They’re trying to do the best they can with what little is left.

I have lots of friends who work in the parks. Many have given years and years of dedicated service, only to find out they’re either no longer needed, or being offered part time positions,, losing all benefits. The sad alternative is to close parks, which in many cases, would devastate the local economies of many rural towns. And anyone connected with the park system knows that, once a park is closed, the chances of it reopening are slim to none.

RetLTC

June 4th, 2009
1:47 pm

This is really sad. I have enjoyed many outings to the parks in Ga. The golf courses are the best values and some of the most well maintained in the state. Just at a time when affordable recreation is needed the most comes this. I will pay the additional fees. Anything I can do to help keep these places alive will be my pleasure. It is a damn shame that our politicos place so little value on these treasures even in good times.

me

July 29th, 2009
5:28 pm

if everyone would get off their high horse and look around you would see that they arent closing all together . in fact some of them are hiring. especially since my husband has 3 interviews at 3 different state parks across the state for law enforcement. if it was that bad then they would have the money in the budget to hire new person and that included offering the person paid housing, state benifits and a truck to drive