Alabama’s 21 state parks will receive millions of dollars from state issued bonds and donations for improvements such as campgrounds, educational programs and trails, said Gov. Kay Ivey during a news conference Friday at Oak Mountain State Park.
“Promoting the wise stewardship and enjoyment of these gifts for current and future generations must always be a priority and that’s why we’re here today,” Ivey said.
The Alabama Legislature approved a new constitutional amendment for the state to issue $80 million in bonds for the parks, Ivey said. The governor also said a new public-private partnership was established the same week with Alabama State Parks Foundation, Alabama Power Company, and Buffalo Rock to raise millions for state parks. The partnership’s objective is to organize donations that company’s have contributed and actively put that money back into the parks system.
“Visits to our state parks soared to 6.2 million people last year from roughly five million the year before,” Ivey said.
State parks in the last year have gained popularity even with the COVID-19 pandemic. Ivey said state park operations run solely on visitors and don’t accumulate tax-payers money. Up to 90% of park funds are provided by the visitors, the governor said. This new partnership and amendment will help keep state parks clean, safe and fun for their guests.
“Two of these parks suffered significant and widespread damage from tornadoes in the last two years including less than a month ago at Oak Mountain,” Ivey said.
The parks that will receive attention first are Oak Mountain, Lake Point in Eufaula and Joe Wheeler in Lauderdale County. These three parks suffered the greatest damages from the storms and will take the most time to rebuild. The two parks Gov. Ivey is referring to are Oak Mountain and Joe Wheeler. With the help from Alabama Power Co. and Buffalo Rock, their donations allow the state to start working at both of these parks.
“This partnership with Alabama State Parks Foundation and Alabama Corporations will lead to even greater improvements that can be made quickly and attract even more visitors,” Ivey said. “This in turn will safeguard the ability of our parks to be self-sufficient and contribute to Alabama’s economic growth.”
Gov. Ivey stresses the importance of Alabama’s park system and it’s vitality to the residents health, wellbeing and happiness as well as to improve the state’s economy.
“Alabamians love and cherish the State Parks,” Ivey said, “and we must make sure they are maintained and available for generations to come.”