Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Hidden Reason Joe Wheeler May Close?

From L. Stone:

Have our readers been following the state parks closing story? I don't think many people understand what is really going on. The big secret most people want to keep hidden in the frenzy for more taxes is that the operational money for the parks comes from money spent by park users. Cutting budget money going to the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources should not affect the parks since that money doesn't go there to start with.

If you look at the map of the cuts one thing becomes apparent. The cuts are concentrated in small communities where the state park is very important for tourism. Huntsville will not lose Monte Sano. Birmingham will not lose Oak Mountain. Mobile will not lose Meaher or Gulf. (There aren't any parks close to Montgomery.) In short, the cuts will not affect the four largest cities in Alabama.

To use a Shoals example, look at Joe Wheeler State Park. If you close Joe Wheeler it will be a major economic loss to Rogersville which depends on river tourism. They will still have the monthly fire department fish fry on first Saturday and Christmas at the old church, but for all practical purposes tourism will be over for Rogersville and a thriving little town will see businesses close, unemployment rise and people leave.

It's not just Rogersville. Many other towns, such as Guntersville, depend on state parks for tourism. What would be the impact if, say, Monte Sano in Huntsville closed? If would be missed by the community, but the tourism impact would be negligible. There are lots of other tourism options in Huntsville. (Some might even want Monte Sano to close because it could mean more money for their pet tourism project.) Closing Monte Sano State Park would not even end recreation on Monte Sano now that the Land Trust has property on the mountain for events and hiking.

Is this a coincidence? No. The closings have been selected where they will cause the most pain. The politicians in the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources know that if they look at cutting or closing something near one of the larger cities where tourism options abound they will not get a big reaction. They also know that if they select closings that threaten to decimate towns like Rogersville or Guntersville or any of a number of small communities they will generate a firestorm of opposition that will manifest itself in lots of angry people writing their representatives telling them to give the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources whatever they need to save their park and their community.

Not only is there no talk of cutting parks near the large cities, but they are still talking about spending massive amounts of money to expand facilities at Gulf and Oak Mountain. This does not sound like the actions of a park system truly facing a budget crisis. That's because the only crisis facing the state park system in Alabama is a manufactured crisis.

This reminds me of a manufactured crisis in Huntsville a couple of decades ago when the state was facing budget problems and UAH was looking at cuts in state funding. Frank Franz, the president then, tried a dramatic ploy to get more money. His solution was that since UAH was losing X million dollars from the state and that it cost X million dollars to run the medical school the solution was to just close the medical school in Huntsville. He didn't count on this little ploy blowing up in his face. What ended up happening was that the state severed all connections between UAH and the University of Alabama School of Medicine, the Huntsville program was placed solely under the control of UAB, and UAH had its funding cut by even more since they no longer had a medical school.

Maybe someone needs to look at severing the connection between the state parks and the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.


Let's play "Know Your Aquatic Rodents"

We recently posted some pics found under the search for "muskrat," but it appeared several rodents were incorrectly identified as muskrats. We're sure the Tuscumbia Park Department wants to blame the right critter for its current woes.

We were surprised that the muskrat was the smallest of these animals. Surely the park department could trap and release them somewhere else.

Trivia: The McIlhennys of Tabasco sauce fame was not the first Louisiana family to import nutria to the U.S., but the third. Nutria proliferation was encouraged until the 1950s.


1 comment:

  1. I would offer this observation on Joe Wheeler Park. If you add up the Marina, the cabins, the golf course, the marginal trails (there ought to be triple of what exists now), the limited RV parking (they ought to triple what they have), the lodge itself, and the 2,550 acres....the place ought to be booming with a significant amount of tourism (probably 300-to-500 percent more than what exists now).

    It's been run wrong for twenty years and not really developed to full potential. Fault? The state really can't run much of anything except a boat ramp or picnic ground type park. That's the sad reality. It's like asking Montgomery to run that AAA-baseball team....they'd do a lousy and marginal job, but they'd pay six guys at least a $100,000 each to manage that baseball team.

    My advice? Now that we know the whole game is about helping the dimwit Republicans pass a tax-hike....force their hand and make them actually put Joe Wheeler Park up for sale. Yep.....lets entice them to deliver on the deal. Sell it. Suddenly, we might find ten different investment groups curious about the bidding process. Growth? I'd bet on a major expansion of the marina, a 200-room add-on for the hotel, more cabins, 300 additional spots for RVs, and major expansion of the mountain-bike trails. We might be able to add 150 more jobs for the park, and another 500 jobs locally in Rogersville.

    Get's never been managed to be a successful and growing operation.