It’s been a great year for state parks

Published 11:30 pm Friday, December 19, 2014


Since the first stone cabins were constructed at Cheaha State Park in the 1930s, Alabama’s State Parks have been bringing families and friends together. This holiday season, as Alabama State Parks nears the end of its 75th anniversary, I look back at an incredible year, one which was named “The Year of Alabama Parks” by the Alabama Tourism Department. As we celebrate with loved ones, and open our hearts to give thanks, I want to thank all our incredible partners who made this 75th anniversary such a great success.

For more than three generations, families and friends have gathered at the parks to hike, fish, play games, bike, host weddings, anniversaries and much more. Through the years, the parks have continued to change with the times, bringing guests new attractions and amenities.

During this season of giving, I encourage you to remember the state parks. Countless memories have been made at the state parks; thousands of children took their first hikes here, numerous community events were hosted annually, and millions of families bonded at the parks. With your help, millions more will be able to make memories and future generations will continue to have a pristine parks system to enjoy.

Since more than 90 percent of the state parks budget comes directly from fees paid at the parks and from generous donors, every donation makes a significant difference, and leaves an impact on generations to come.

As wonderful as our parks are, there are still many critical maintenance and improvement projects that need to be planned, such as interior renovations to cabins and lodges, new and renovated bathhouses and new primitive camping areas at many parks. Additionally, since Mother Nature is not always predictable, the parks are in need of additional funds to make extensive repairs to multiple parks.

Luckily this year, thanks to dozens of partners around the state who lent their time, money and expertise, Alabama’s State Parks have received much more than simply a fresh coat of paint. These generous individuals, businesses and non-profits have led to significant developments at our parks.

Chewacla and Oak Mountain State Parks have won multiple national awards and designations for their biking trails thanks to the work of the Central Alabama Mountain Pedalers (CAMP) and the Birmingham Urban Mountain Pedalers (BUMP).

This year, two of our parks entered into Concession Agreements with private businesses, where a portion of their profit is given back the parks. At Oak Mountain, Flipside Water Sports built and now operates a water cable course (now closed for winter) that allows guests to wakeboard or ski without a boat. Gulf State has a Hummingbird Zip Line Adventure course, which takes guests on a beach and lake view zip line.

As families and friends gather this holiday season, I encourage you to unplug for an afternoon and make a memory at your local state park with family and friends. The new additions to the parks, the fun-filled festivals and celebrations are only possible with the help of you, our parks’ partners. Please remember your Alabama State Parks during your holiday gift-giving and give a long-lasting gift – one that can leave a lasting footprint on the Alabama State Parks as well as on your local community.

 Greg Lein is the director of the Alabama State Parks. He can be reached at