The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

February 7, 2014

State looks to add more options at 10 Ala parks

(Continued)

Some residents seem at least interested in the idea.

"I would love it," wrote Lisa Marie Smith of Hollis, in a message to The Star. "It would keep people from going somewhere else and spending their money in other counties."

A zip-lining enthusiast, Smith is heading to Georgia to go zip-lining and would enjoy having a course closer to home, she wrote.

However, however, worry about the zip lines becoming an eyesore for the park. Lein acknowledged that fear.

"We try to take into consideration the aesthetics," Lein said. "We're going to be looking for proposals where they have blended it into the landscape."

Ney Landrum, a former state park director in Florida for 19 years and the author of "The State Park Movement in America," said he believes adding thrill-type activities to state parks is antithetical to the role of state parks. Such parks date to the late 19th century and were created to fill the gaps between national parks, Landrum said.

State parks are meant to provide an alternative type of recreation that takes advantage of the natural setting, said Landrum. States that add too much commercial enterprise run the risk of changing the whole atmosphere of the parks, Landrum said. Zip lines can be built anywhere, but nature can't be recreated, he said.

"Things are changing; I realize that," Landrum said. "You've got to think ahead a century or two when these may be the only remnants of natural settings."

Derrick Crandall, president and CEO of the American Recreation Coalition, an organization that protects outdoor recreational activities, said declining visitation is a problem at national parks. Last year visits were down 5 percent, Crandall said. A recent study showed one reason is that the parks aren't appealing to younger, urban Americans. They want activities such as zip-lining, he said.

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