By Senator Clay Scofield
Visiting Alabama’s State Parks and boating on Lake Guntersville were staples of my childhood. As I’ve travelled and experienced other public lands around the country, I’ve grown to appreciate these parks more and recognize the incredible gift from God our state parks are to us. This is why, for the last few years, I’ve been doing all I can to protect these amazing resources. The state parks belong to the citizens of Alabama, and I worked this year to write a constitutional amendment that would help ensure our parks are protected for future generations. I hope you’ll join me in supporting our parks and voting yes for Amendment 2 this Tuesday.
Unfortunately, there has been a lot of misinformation spread about Amendment 2 recently. The primary goal of Amendment 2 is to ensure that park guest fees stay in the system to maintain our beautiful state parks. Amendment 2 also allows all parks the option to enter into concession agreements with businesses, which many of the parks already have the ability to do and will level the playing field by allowing that option to other parks. These private business partnerships benefit our park system. At no time does the park system lose ownership of a park or park facility if they enter into these “concessionaire” agreements. It simply gives them another option if they can’t afford to run a particular park or park facility rather than being forced to shut it down.
If these private business agreements were not an option, Roland Cooper State Park would still be closed to the public today, the new ziplines at Guntersville would never have been built, the cable ski system at Oak Mountain would not be available to guests and plans for other exciting new attractions at our state parks would not be in the works. Keeping our parks open and providing new adventures so our parks system is continually meeting guest expectations is the reason it is important to vote yes on Amendment 2.
Contrary to some of the information being shared around the state, Amendment 2 does not privatize the parks system and does not allow for corporations to develop on park lands. I can assure the people of Alabama, if Amendment 2 did privatize the parks or put the future of the parks system in jeopardy, I would be working to defeat it. The reason myself, our state parks staff, dozens of community leaders, conservation organizations and tourism bureaus from around the state are supporting Amendment 2 is because it protects our parks system and ensures the parks are sustainable for decades to come.
The misinformation about Amendment 2 is being spread by individuals whose top priority is not supporting the parks or securing stable funding for the system. A quick Google search will bring up information that shows the real intentions and special interests behind these “park supporters” advocating against Amendment 2. They have ties to the competing developers on the Gulf Coast opposing the construction of a new Lodge & Conference Center at Gulf State park. Their motives are selfish and they’re not being honest with the people of Alabama.
My record of supporting the parks is clear. I’ve been an advocate of the parks long before I entered public service and have continually stood up for the parks system in the last few years. When the parks funding was being transferred to the State General Fund year after year, I was educating lawmakers about how the parks funding operates and why transferring funds hurt the parks system. During this time where were these “park supporters?” I can assure you they were not in the state house trying to stop these funding transfers. Instead, some were actually filing lawsuits against the parks and projects that would benefit the entire system.
When the parks funds were depleted and out of options for additional revenue, I joined my colleagues in sponsoring a bill to create a specialty boat tag that would bring an additional $3.5 million in revenue to the parks without raising any taxes. As this legislation was being passed these “park supporters,” the ones furiously working against Amendment 2, were again absent from the state house and were not in the communities advocating for these specialty tags or speaking with the public about a solution to the funding crisis.
When the parks budget had reached a dire point and parks began closing facilities and entire parks, I was fighting for these parks and the citizens that love them. When five parks closed these “park supporters” were in court because their lawsuits against the parks were being dismissed by a judge.
It’s our responsibility as voters to educate ourselves on the issues. It’s also our responsibility to research sources and understand the messenger(s) background. My background and relationship to the parks is transparent. I have three state parks in my district, I represent three counties that have part of a park within their boundaries. I have six state parks in my area that are on the line here. My interest in protecting the parks and seeing them thrive for generations is obvious from my record.
I hope you will spend some time looking at the facts as it relates to Amendment 2. If you can’t take my word for it, please read the many letters of support, Facebook messages and take a look at the broad coalition who support our parks that are advocating for Amendment 2. I plead with you, if Amendment 2 does not pass I fear what the Alabama State Parks System’s future will hold based on the hard lessons we have learned from the last few years. The parks can not survive if their funding is not protected. These are not scare tactics.