Conference center at beach could help fund other parks

Published 12:05 am Wednesday, June 12, 2013


Construction of a new hotel and conference center in Gulf State Park could be a great thing for the two state parks in Covington County, as well as other parks in the state system.

Rep. Mike Jones (R-Andalusia) said in a town hall meeting Tuesday night that the legislation setting up a procedure for the evaluation and construction of a hotel and conference center on Gulf State Park land also says if the facility is built, 50 percent of the proceeds it generates will support other Alabama State Parks.

“This is a big deal,” Jones said. “We are constantly fighting to keep state parks open. This would bring new revenue, fresh revenue into state park budgets.”

State parks were not originally designed to make money, he said.

“They were designed to give the people of our state a place to vacation at no cost or low cost, he said.

Still, when budgeting for state parks is done every year, they are reviewed as if they were designed to be profit centers.

Covington County is home to two state parks – Lake Jackson in Florala, and Lake Frank Jackson State Park in Opp.

“In Florala, it’s wide open,” Jones said. “There is no place to make money, unless you pay for camping. This bill would help us here.”

In Florala, there are two full-time employees that work the 40-acre park. There are two full-time and two part-time employees at the 2,050-acre park in Opp, which boasts 32 RV campsites with wi-fi and cable services.