Chris Blankenship, Commissioner, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources speaks at the opening. Buck's Pocket State Park opens the renovated campground and new ORV Trail today.
By Chris Blankenship | Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
This is a guest opinion column
Alabama State Parks provide improved access to some of the state’s most scenic and picturesque areas – from our state’s highest point at Cheaha State Park, to the iconic Gulf State Park beaches, to the 11,000-acre oasis in the midst of urban sprawl at Oak Mountain State Park, and many others.
All 21 state parks provide something unique and notable. A playground for outdoor enthusiasts, a classroom for naturalists, a sanctuary away from our busy lives and a great economic engine for our communities.
But if we want to improve and expand the opportunities in these special places, and make sure they are available to our children and grandchildren, the time has come for Alabama to modernize and renovate our state parks.
That is why it is important we vote “Yes” on the Alabama State Parks amendment on May 24.
Our state’s leaders understand that it is time to invest in Alabama’s parks system. That is why the state Legislature voted to place this constitutional amendment on the ballot, and it is why Governor Kay Ivey supports its approval.
Ultimately, it’s up to the people to approve this measure to better our state parks system.
After decades of natural disasters and limited funding to respond, our state parks system has many needs. This $85 million bond issue will help address deferred renovation needs, provide revenue to expand guest offerings, and help make our state parks a jewel that makes all of us proud.
Our state parks rely on visitor fees and the support of other partners like local communities to fund their yearly operational costs. The renovations and added cabins and day use amenities will allow our state parks to operate on firm financial footing and ensure we can keep our parks in first class shape moving forward.
At several campgrounds around the state, this bond initiative will allow us to upgrade camping pads and electrical, water and sewer services so we can accommodate today’s modern campers and motorhomes. Also, it’s no secret we need to make technological improvements and upgrade Wi-Fi coverage as well.
Cabins will also be built at several state parks to allow for more guests that want to experience nature in roomier accommodations that can meet the needs of families. Camper cabins will be built on some campground sites to allow access for people who want to enjoy camping in the great outdoors, but don’t have RVs.
Many old playgrounds need total replacement with new modern, assessable playgrounds to allow fun access for kids of all abilities. We also want to focus on improving the day use areas of our Alabama State Parks by building new bathroom facilities and expanding the recreational offerings at lakes, field areas and trails. Dog parks are also a much-requested item for our Parks.
Those improvements and expanded guest offerings are great reasons a “Yes” vote on the State Parks Amendment is so important.
We believe this is the perfect time to modernize and enhance the State Parks System, which provides year-round recreation opportunities for every Alabamian and draws tens of thousands of tourists to the state every year.
We know Alabama State Parks remain wildly popular throughout the state and draw tourists into our communities, and we believe the availability of bond money will help make them better than ever.
I am sure you would agree with me that our state parks are one of the many reasons we are lucky our home is in Alabama. A “Yes” vote on May 24 shows your support for outdoor recreation and signals your desire to improve some of our state’s most spectacular and iconic places.
Chris Blankenship has served as the Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources since August 2017. He has worked at the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources since 1994.