A great year for OMSP

By GREG LEIN / Guest Columnist
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.
During this season of giving, I encourage you to remember the state parks. Since over 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.
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). Many groups donate not only funds but also their time to teaching children the basics of mountain biking, as well as teaching them stewardship through the importance of community service. Another playground at Oak Mountain is near completion, thanks to a partnership between Shelby County and the Park.
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.
This year Bob Baumhower Shrimpfest series brought thousands of Alabamians to four of the state parks for a day of celebration with great food and music. Dozens of parks hosted summer, Halloween and Holiday festivals for their communities and brought thousands together for family fun.
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.
Greg Lein is the director of the Alabama State Parks. He can be reached at Greg.Lein@dcnr.alabama.gov.