State funding may be cut for SAM Shortline Train -, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

State funding may be cut for SAM Shortline Train

By  Stephanie Springer  - bio | email

CORDELE, GA (WALB) –Georgia's budget crisis is hitting a popular south Georgia tourist attraction.

The Governor's budget proposal cuts all funding to the SAM shortline excursion train based in Cordele.

That means if it can't become self-sufficient, the train will be pulled off the rails.

The state has been gradually reducing funding for this program by a third a year.

The goal was to make the Shortline completely self sufficient by 2014. But that timeline was suddenly moved up, meaning managers must make cuts this year to keep the train up and running

Folks from near and far travel to Cordele to take a ride on the SAM Short Line Train

"The train is real comfortable, you can play cards,you can look out and see the scenery," said 8-year old Nicholas Bailey.

Today our cameras got a special glimpse inside, where conductors showed us just what attracts passengers.

"Each one of the cars is named after one of the towns we go through," said conductor

Over the past seven years, more than 208 thousand passengers have decided to take a ride.

"The fee for riding the train is inexpensive, only around 25 dollars, so its good to take care of your own community first," said Bear Kelley.

Since 2002 the train has generated 25 million dollars in the areas it services

"Its been running for nine years state owned its what we call a rolling state park," said

In 2009 the state provided the program a little more than 323,000 dollars.

That was down to 194,000 this year. For 2011, officials expect to get nothing.

That means cuts will be made and the SAM Shortline will need volunteers and community support to keep on rolling.

"Without your support we cant keep operating so we need everyone's support," said Kelley.

Volunteers like Bear Kelley

"My wife and I have been volunteering on this train for about five years now," said Kelley.

And for five years he and his wife have worked hard at selling and promoting the train.

"The only way to ensure that the state parks and things like this train survive is through volunteerism," said Kelley.

So he encourages people to come on out, and see what fun adventures are in your own backyard.

The train makes stops in Archery, Plains, Americus, Leslie, Georgia Veterans State Park and Cordele.

Officials say safety is the number one priority for the train, so they are doubtful they would be able to run the current schedule, maintain the highest safety standards and be self sufficient.

The Shortline is part of the State Park system and actually leads the system in the number of volunteer hours.

Those volunteers have saved the state 330,000 dollars.

If you would like to take a ride on the train click here

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