State parks won’t close; some lodges may privatize

25 11 2008

Georgia’s state parks are safe from the budget ax — for now.

Gov. Sonny Perdue discussed the revised budget cuts for the Department of Natural Resources on Tuesday morning with Commissioner Noel Holcomb and his likely successor, current Georgia Environmental Facilities Authority Executive Director Chris Clark. Instead of closing up to six of the state’s 48 state parks, they decided to cut deeper elsewhere, further slashing funds for routine maintenance and equipment replacements.  Still on the table is closing up to five historic sites, two fewer than originally proposed earlier this fall. The exact locations have not yet been determined, and the sites could remain open with reduced hours.

The state is also considering privatizing all its golf courses and several lodges, at George T. Bagby State Park, Georgia Veterans State Park and Smithgall Woods Conservation Area.

DNR spokeswoman Beth Brown said public feedback made a difference, motivating the change to the proposed cuts that could take effect starting early next year.

But, she said, it’s a tradeoff. “There are repairs and maintenance that need to be done that will be delayed,” Brown said. “We have trucks with 250,00 to 300,000 miles that we can’t replace, and that are critical for us to do the job that we do.”

With state revenues faltering, Perdue and top legislators are trying make up a revenue shortfall of $1.6 billion to $1.8 billion.

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