New coalition working to preserve state parks

A new organization is working to support Alabama's state parks, including Oak Mountain State Park in Pelham. (File)

A new organization is working to support Alabama’s state parks, including Oak Mountain State Park in Pelham. (File)

By NEAL WAGNER / Managing Editor

MONTGOMERY – A new state coalition aimed at preserving Alabama’s state parks, including Oak Mountain State Park in Pelham, is planning to host public meetings in the coming weeks to “raise awareness of the continued budget crisis” facing the state park system, according to the group.

Several state parks supporters from across the state recently formed the Alabama State Parks Partners coalition “To highlight Alabama’s beautiful state parks and the important role they play in the quality of life in Alabama,” according to the organization.

The organization recently capped off two years of preparations by launching a Facebook page, which gained more than 22,000 likes in fewer than two weeks. Through a social media campaign, the organization is asking people across the state to share videos, photos and posts with the hashtag “#ALParksPartners” detailing why the state parks system is important to them.

Through the social media campaign, the group is looking to “share the importance of the parks and raise awareness of the continued budget crisis,” according to the group.

On April 15, Alabama State Parks System Director Greg Lein issued a statement announcing potential emergency state park closures over the next few months if the Alabama Legislature transfers money from the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ budget to help cover a state general fund budget shortfall.

Oak Mountain State Park was not on the list of potential closures, and as of June 4, no state parks had been closed as a result of budget concerns.

The organization’s steering committee is composted of longtime park supporters including Bob Baumhower with Aloha Hospitality, Philip Darden with the Central Alabama Mountain Pedalers, Sandra Killen-Burroughs with Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourism, Natalie Kelley with Sustain and My Green Birmingham/Montgomery, Jade Patollo, a professor at Jacksonville State University and Bee Frederick, the southeastern states manager for the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation.

“Alabama State Parks Partners plan to host meetings throughout the state to engage other businesses, organizations and individuals that would like to become involved in this effort to support the State Parks system,” read a Parks Partners press release. “The location of those meetings and other details will be released in the coming weeks.”