Alabama Governor Kay Ivey, supporters of the Alabama State Parks Foundation, local corporate leaders and others gathered at Oak Mountain State Park on Thursday, to announce efforts aimed at investing millions of dollars into much-needed park improvements.
At the news conference, the governor made clear her support of legislation enabling the state to raise $80 million for state park improvements. Currently, the Alabama Legislature is considering a constitutional amendment to authorize the state to issue bonds to pay for a new and improved State Park system. If the legislation is passed, Alabamians will then vote on whether to approve the constitutional amendment in 2022.
“Alabamians love and cherish the State Parks, and we must make sure they are maintained and available for generations to come,” Ivey said. “I support the use of state bonds to make the needed enhancements throughout the state parks system.”
$14 Million Commitment
In addition to Ivey’s endorsement of State Park constitutional amendment legislation, the non-profit Alabama State Parks Foundation announced the launch of its corporate giving campaign with a goal of raising an additional $14 million for park improvements.
The ASPF kicked off its corporate giving campaign with pledges of $250,000 by Buffalo Rock Company and $100,000 from the Alabama Power Foundation. The ASPF set a goal of raising $14 million in corporate donations in the next five years.
“We believe this innovative public-private partnership will maximize our efforts to help the Alabama State Parks system maintain its place as one of the state’s true treasures, ” Alabama State Parks Foundation President Dr. Dan Hendricks said.
The new bond issue and ASPF’s fundraising are expected to fast-track projects to expand campgrounds, add cabins and improve internet connectivity, among other priorities.
A majority of funding for State Parks – 80-to-90 percent annually – is generated through user fees for rental, lodging, golf and other amenities in the parks. The system’s finances can also be impacted unexpectedly, such as the tornado that damaged Oak Mountain last month, Hurricane Sally damaging Gulf State Park in Gulf Shores last fall, and another tornado wreaking havoc on the campground and day-use areas at Joe Wheeler State Park in December 2019.
Great Park Movement
At the gathering with the governor, Dr. Hendricks added:
“Together. I believe that we may very well, unleash a great park movement in this state, the likes of which we have not seen since the 1920s and 30s. There was a great park movement throughout the United States and here that started these beautiful parks. I think we’re going to unleash a park movement among our people.the likes of which we haven’t seen for almost 100 years. It thrills me to think about it.”
Governor Ivey concluded her remarks saying:
“This (initiative) will safeguard the ability of our parks to be self sufficient and contribute to Alabama’s economic growth. State parks will continue to be a priority. We must make sure that future generations have the same opportunities and even more… to encounter God’s wonder.”
Bham Now Series on Alabama State Parks
Want to know more about the history and how to support the Alabama State Park system?
Check out our series of stories we published this past fall.