New budget puts state parks at risk - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

New budget puts state parks at risk

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By Robin Jedlicka - bio | email 

COOK COUNTY, GA (WALB) - The Department of Natural Resources has announced more cuts after the state cut funding by nearly 40%.

Georgia's coveted state parks are suffering.  New budget restrictions have made improvements, and even maintenance, nearly impossible.

At Reed Bingham State Park in Cook County, gasoline has become an unnecessary expense.  Mowing is now a rare occurrence, and in some places, grass is several feet high.

The non-profit group, Friends of Reed Bingham, has had to step-up, performing large and difficult tasks.

"Our 'Friends' group is pretty committed," says Chet Powell, Manager of Reed Bingham.  "They'll do everything from help run the office to pick up trash, mow grass, and run the weed harvester."

Without volunteers behind the wheel of the harvester, the lake could fill with hydrilla, making it impassible for boats and swimmers.

Having no money also makes repairs impossible.

Reed Bingham's nature trail is typically one of the park's most popular attractions.  Ever since March and April's heavy rainfalls dislodged the boardwalks throughout the trails, it has remained closed.

"It's just unfortunate that right now it's not open," says park ranger Jennifer Glover.  "We hope to get it opened up, but who knows when?"

The bathrooms near the popular beach area broke two months ago.  They're too expensive to fix, so the park has been forced to install port-a-potties. 

It's not just Reed Bingham that is taking the hit.  Across the state, 150 jobs have been cut from the state park system--even some at Jefferson Davis Historical Site near Fitzgerald, and Georgia Veterans Memorial State Park in Cordele.

Parks encourage visitors to join their local 'Friends of Georgia State Parks' chapter to help keep them operating.  You can do so by logging on to www.friendsofGAstateparks.org 

Click on "Become a Member."

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