Friday, August 12, 2016

Our Roland Cooper STATE PARK to reopen

The phrase “Keeping Public Parks Open” shouts from the top of the home page of Recreation Resource Management, the Arizona-based company that is going to re-open the Alabama Black Belt’s Roland Cooper State Park in Wilcox County.
Meanwhile, the headline on the state of Alabama’s home page for Roland Cooper State Park reads, “The park and golf course have been closed to the public.”
What a contrast.
But let me state this clearly. HOORAY! Roland Cooper State Park is going to REOPEN, perhaps by Labor Day, almost a year after it and four other state parks were closed, to quote myself, “because of budget cuts and what I and a bunch of other folks see as bumbling and ineffective, shortsighted state leadership.”
In a deal negotiated by officials from Camden, Wilcox County, U.S. Corp of Engineers and the beleaguered State Parks Division of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. Recreation Resource Management, a for-profit business, will operate the park’s facilities. The reopening does not, however, include the nine-hole golf course -- with its deer on the greens and for-real hazard areas where gators pose as patrons -- which closed more than a year ago. To my knowledge, the golf course currently has no rescue in sight.
Because I ranted about the closure of Roland Cooper State Park last October, it’s important that I detail how it is reopening, and how our heartbreakingly dysfunctional state government still must be held accountable.  Our lovely, postcard pretty, Spanish moss-draped state park that brings anglers and families, fishing tournaments and family reunions from across the state and the South, is reopening not because any elected state office holder did anything to help. And, certainly the LUV GUV did nothing at all…to help.
Roland Cooper State Park – with access to the ridiculously diverse Alabama River and 22,000 acre Dannelly Reservoir -- is reopening because local folks fought for it to reopen. (See headline in post below.)  They worked together with state parks officials to find a way.
That way turned out to be a contract with Recreation Resource Management.  RRM manages public parks and facilities in 10 states including campgrounds and parks in Alabama near Guntersville.
It appears to be a good solution, but the closures should not have happened in the first place. Make no mistake, these closures happened (and the state can’t pay its Medicaid bill or take care of its overcrowded prisons) because of ongoing sorry budgeting practices by state leaders who forget campaign promises as quickly as the LUV GUV traded burn cell phones.
Specifically, the state park division was forced to close Roland Cooper and others because of the $3 million a year the legislature routinely transfers OUT of the state parks budget. Yes, like a slight-of-hand double-crossing magic trick, they rob state parks EVERY YEAR to fund some other programs.
In fact, over the last five years, more than $30 million has been transferred from the ADCNR to the general fund to support other state programs. The state parks system alone has been forced to transfer half of the $30 million from its division.  This transferring of funds is standard operating procedure for our state government. They sneak millions of dollars from one public fund to another. It ought to be illegal, and we can make it so.
Amendment 2 on the November 8 general election would outlaw this practice. One of 13 amendments on the ballot to modify our famously lengthy and antique state constitution, Amendment 2 would prohibit the transfer of state parks funds to the general fund. The exception would be when and if guest revenues to specific state park funds exceed $50 million.
Amendment 2 also would allow the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources the option of using non-state entities to operate and management of hotels, golf courses and restaurants at Alabama State Parks. In other words, the private operation of public parks is needed to keep our parks open. The amendment was proposed by Alabama State Sen. Clay Scofield, a farmer from Marshall County who is the exception to the “no elected officials helped” statement above. The amendment passed both houses by an overwhelming majority.
The bottom line is: Vote yes on Amendment 2 on Nov. 8.
If allowing state parks to stay open and not be robbed by legislators is not reason enough for us to support Amendment 2, here are other words of support for the amendment:
These parks were built for the people and they belong to the people and that's how they should stay.” – Sandra Burroughs, vice president of the Alabama State Parks Partners Coalition.
We urge all Alabama outdoor recreational groups to get behind the amendment with advocacy to inform the public about its importance before the fall elections.
Its passage will restore financial stability to the parks system, including the ability to plan ahead for needed maintenance and improvement projects.
Alabama’s parks help preserve Alabama’s natural resources, sustain the economies of nearby towns and raise quality of living standards that matter to industries looking for new locations to build facilities.
Let’s keep them open.” -- The Montgomery Advertiser, editorial, May 1, 2016.
“…Alabamians from all corners of the state shouted loudly last year when lawmakers’ failure to create new revenue led to the closing of five state parks and threatened the entire system. That same energy should be pumped into support of this constitutional amendment. Alabama’s state parks are too valuable to leave unprotected.” – The Anniston Star, editorial, April 29, 2016
I say AMEN.

And, I say welcome back Roland Cooper State Park, and welcome back, taxpaying public, to your STATE PARK.

Picture of the day:
This picture of twilight on the Alabama River from Roland Cooper State Park
originally appeared on the website of the Wilcox newspaper,
The Progressive Era

Song of the day:
         Looking for a song that sings of outdoors and fishing, I thought of "Fishin' Blues." Written by Texas Bluesman Henry Thomas and featured in the Anthology of American Folk Music (1952), Fishin' Blues was covered by the Loving Spoonful in 1965.  But the version I know, with some lyric changes, is by Taj Mahal, recorded in 1968. I like the part about "Your sweet wife will catch more fish than you."


"Bet your going fishing all of the time
Baby going fishing too
Bet your life, your sweet wife
Will catch more fish than you
Many fish bites if you got good bait
Here's a little tip that I would like to relate
Many fish bites if you got good bait
I'm a going fishing, yes I'm going fishing
And my baby going fishing too
I went on down to my favorite fishing hole
Baby grabbed me a pole and a line
Throwed my pole on in, caught a nine pound catfish
You know I brought him home for supper time
Proving any fish bites if you got good bait
Here's a little tip that I would like to relate

Many fish bites if you've got good bait
I'm a going fishing, yes I'm going fishing
And my baby goin' fishin' too...."