Position clarified: Parks won’t close

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Area residents who enjoy Covington County’s two state parks, or depend upon visitors to those parks for business, can rest easier after a recent announcement by the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources that said no state parks are in danger of closing in the near future.

It was announced recently that 10 state parks – including those in Florala and Opp – could possibly be closed in 2013 due to a loss of funding because of SB 337.

Initially, it was believed that SB 337 would take away a $5 million appropriation to the state parks and put that money into the general fund.

In a letter to Rep. Mike Jones. R-Andalusia, dated May 31, DCNR commissioner N. Gunter Guy Jr. said that’s no longer the case.

“To avoid any ambiguity, let us be clear,” the letter stated. “The Bentley administration, including DCNR, has no intention of closing any state parks. Based on all the information available to us at this time, we will not have to close any state parks in FY 2012 or FY 2013, which are the years that SB 337 will be in effect.”

Jones said he was “happy” to hear the news.

“I have received numerous calls from constituents who expressed concern over the possible closures (of the two local state parks),” he said. “It’s good to know that our constituents are willing to voice their opinion on such issues.”

This was also good news to the mayors of Opp and Florala, who’d voiced concerns over losing the sales tax revenue generated by park users.

Florala Mayor Robert Williamson said while he had not seen the official letter, the news was “tremendous.”

“The city cannot afford to have one of its greatest draws closed,” Williamson said. “So, I can say that this is great news to hear. I have to say that everyone involved did a tremendous job to make sure this measure didn’t come to fruition.”