State budget cuts could close some state parks. - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

State budget cuts could close some state parks.

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By Wainwright Jeffers - bio | email

August 28, 2008

CRISP COUNTY, GA (WALB) - The state recently kicked off a program to encourage more of you to visit state parks, but that's about to become harder to do.

More than a dozen parks and historic sites could close as the state tries to shave more than a billion dollars off the budget.

Some visitors at Veterans Memorial State Park are not thrilled with the proposal.

Joyce Barefoot and her husband have fished at this park for years, it's a getaway close to home.

"This is it we like to come camp and fish, it's a quiet time you know, we can forget the telephone or anything like that," Joyce Barefoot, Crisp County.

A plan approved Wednesday by state park officials could scrap new positions at parks like Veterans Memorial State Park, and out-source state-run lodges and golf courses.

As many as 13 parks and historic sites could be shut down.

"That is a possibility, it's a worst case scenario, we're really trying to find alternative ways of keeping the site open, perhaps we can find local historical societies or local or county governments that could step in and operate some," Said Kimberly Hatcher, Public Affairs Coordinator-Georgia State Parks and Historic Sites.

Allen and Linda Palmer visit state parks all over Georgia, and said cutbacks should happen elsewhere.

"I pay taxes, my taxes help to pay that, and you know we don't have to cut back on education and people having some fun every now and then. With the gas prices up like they are, it's hard to really go far away from home," said Allen Palmer.

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources did not say which parks could be closed. DNR and other agencies were ordered to propose cuts of at least 6 percent to help close a state budget gap of 1.6 Billion dollars.

"We know we're still going to get visitors it's just they may have to go to a different state park than they go to now," said Hatcher.

"We've been coming out here when we raised our kids, and our grand kids have been out here. I would hate to see them close them because there's enough for kids to get in trouble, and this is one place where you can be a family," said Barefoot.

Georgia state parks and historic sites get around 10-million visitors a year.

They system's plan for cutbacks must be approved by the state budget office before it takes effect.

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