The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Opinion

April 7, 2013

State parks' funding base has eroded

Montgomery Advertiser on state park system funding erosion:

Within the memory of most of our people, Alabama had a system of state parks that was one of the best in the country. It was one of the things Alabama had done right.

The state had wisely made an investment in places that were particularly scenic or had historic significance or offered recreational opportunities. Some of the parks had lodging or other amenities that were affordable for most families. It was an investment — modest in scale compared to many other state expenditures — in quality of life.

Sadly, the mindset that led to the creation of the parks system has gradually given way to a strict dollars-and-cents point of view that fails to recognize the less easily measured — but no less real — benefits of a healthy, well maintained parks system. That change, coupled with aging infrastructure, damage from hurricanes and tornadoes, and general neglect, has pushed the parks system into a most difficult position.

Now the system is preparing to reduce hours of operation and may lay off some employees. As the Advertiser’s Brian Lyman reported, the system “has been pushed beyond its means,” in the words of Parks Director Gregory Lein.

“We will no longer be able to operate our parks system as we have over the last four decades,” Lein wrote in a letter issued last week.

The system’s funding base has eroded. The Department of Conservation once got about $6 million a year from the state’s use tax, and $2.5 million-$3 million from the cigarette tax, but that revenue now goes to the General Fund.

In a telling example, the chairman of the Senate Finance and Taxation Committee observed that the cuts to Conservation have been smaller than those suffered by some other General Fund agencies. That is true in percentage terms, but that also represents a very shallow understanding because it assumes that all cuts are the same and have the same impact, regardless of the agency. That is demonstrably untrue.

Alabama has some serious fiscal challenges; no one disputes that. At the same time, however, it is important that the state not make unsound short-term decisions with harmful long-term implications, all stemming from a mindset that understands the price of everything and the value of nothing.

1
Text Only
Opinion
Photos


Poll

Which foreign crisis is the biggest threat to the security of the United States?

Russia-Ukraine
Israel-Palestine
Iraq
None of the above
     View Results
Facebook
AP Video
Kerry: Humanitarian Cease-fire Efforts Continue Raw: Corruption Trial Begins for Former Va Gov. The Carbon Trap: US Exports Global Warming UN Security Council Calls for Gaza Cease-fire Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating 13 Struck by Lightning on Calif. Beach Baseball Hall of Famers Inducted Israel, Hamas Trade Fire Despite Truce in Gaza Italy's Nibali Set to Win First Tour De France Raw: Shipwrecked Concordia Completes Last Voyage Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge From Nest Raw: Massive Dust Storm Covers Phoenix 12-hour Cease-fire in Gaza Fighting Begins Raw: Bolivian Dancers Attempt to Break Record Raw: Israel, Palestine Supporters Rally in US Raw: Air Algerie Flight 5017 Wreckage Virginia Governor Tours Tornado Aftermath Judge Faces Heat Over Offer to Help Migrant Kids Kangaroo Goes Missing in Oklahoma More M17 Bodies Return, Sanctions on Russia Grow
Twitter Updates
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Stocks
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
Business Marquee