It’s time for Alabamians to save state parks

Published 11:32 pm Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Those who say they are deeply in love with Alabama State Parks will have a chance this fall to prove their dedication. It’s about time.

Parks such as the one atop Mount Cheaha are among the state’s true treasures, yet they remain embroiled in Alabama’s ever-present financial difficulties. It’s the cross virtually anything that receives state funds must carry. Last year, cuts to the Alabama Department of Conservation’s funding forced officials to close five parks. Others were threatened. Outdoors-loving Alabamians rose in protest, but they couldn’t force the parks to reopen or guarantee that more closures wouldn’t occur.

This spring, a bill — SB260 — passed through the state House and Senate that is designed to protect state parks’ future funding. The Senate OK’ed it March. The House passed it last week. So, voters in November will see a constitutional amendment on the ballot that, if approved, would prohibit the use of money designated for the state parks system for any other use. (State parks funding couldn’t be used to shore up another state department, in other words.) The amendment would include a $50 million cap on annual revenue for state parks.

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November is months away, but we nonetheless urge Alabamians to vote yes on this amendment.

We’re not suggesting that protecting Alabama State Parks’ funding is more important than repairing the state’s failing prison system or properly paying for public education. Those comparisons aren’t fair. But Alabamians from all corners of the state shouted loudly last year when lawmakers’ failure to create new revenue led to the closing of five state parks and threatened the entire system. That same energy should be pumped into support of this constitutional amendment. Alabama’s state parks are too valuable to leave unprotected.

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