Amendment for state parks funding to appear on May 24 primary ballot

Published 10:53 am Monday, May 16, 2022

By EMILY SPARACINO | Staff Writer

Alabama’s 2022 Primary Election ballot on May 24 will include a proposed constitutional amendment aimed at providing more funding for state parks, public historical sites and public historical parks.

The amendment, which will be listed as “Statewide Amendment 1” on the ballot, would authorize the state to borrow as much as $85 million for improvements and maintenance projects at Alabama state parks, along with historical sites and parks.

“The Alabama State Parks Amendment will be the only local or state amendment on the ballot statewide – so it will appear as Amendment 1 at the very end of the ballot after all candidates are listed,” read an email from Alabama State Parks Division Director Greg Lein. “This amendment, if approved by those who vote in the upcoming primary, will provide a much-needed capital infusion to our Alabama State Parks System.”

If passed by voters, the amendment would authorize “the issuance and sale of general obligation bonds of the state of Alabama of up to $85,000,000 for the purposes of the improvement, renovation, equipping, acquisition, provision, construction and maintenance of Alabama state parks under the jurisdiction of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, and public historical sites and public historical parks under the jurisdiction of the Alabama Historical Commission.”

Regarding where the money comes from to fund the bond, governments issue municipal bonds, which allow the money to be borrowed and repaid, plus interest, over a set period of time.

In this case, the $85 million in bonds would have to be repaid over a 20-year period.

Of the $85 million the amendment would allow the state to borrow, $80 million would be used to improve, renovate, equip, acquire, provide, construct and maintain state parks under the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

The remaining $5 million would be used to improve, renovate, equip, acquire, provide, construct and maintain public historical sites and public historical parks under the Alabama Historical Commission; however, the Alabama Historical Commission would not be able to use any part of the borrowed money at the Confederate Memorial Park in Marbury.

Any additional funds would be given to the Alabama Forestry Commission for it to improve, renovate, acquire, provide, construct, equip and maintain state forests.

Lauren Massey, park naturalist at Oak Mountain State Park, said the amendment would provide additional funds for the park to complete much-needed improvements to its amenities, such as the campgrounds, cabins, lodges, playgrounds and bath houses.

“We do not receive funding through the general state funds or through taxes,” Massey said. “State parks generate our own revenue, meaning money that comes into the parks is kept in the parks. With these extra funds, we can modernize our park system while preserving and protecting our historical and natural beauty. It would be an amazing next step in preserving and updating the few wild spaces left for people to enjoy.”