Seven Alabama State Parks earned nine Hall of Fame honors from TripAdvisor and 12 parks in the 22-park system earned Certificates of Excellence from the world’s largest travel website. Overall, the parks received 16 Certificates of Excellence for 2018.
To earn Hall of Fame recognition, a park, attraction or business must have received a Certificate of Excellence for five consecutive years. The certificates are awarded based on users’ reviews and opinions on TripAdvisor.com.
The Hall of Fame winning parks are Cathedral Caverns State Park, Chewacla State Park, DeSoto State Park, Gulf State Park, Joe Wheeler State Park, Monte Sano State Park and Oak Mountain State Park.
“The most rewarding facet of this recognition is that it comes from visitors’ opinions and rankings,” said Greg Lein, Alabama State Parks Director. “For seven parks to receive Certificates of Excellence for five straight years is remarkable. We are so proud of our staff and volunteers for the hard work they do that is reflected by the high regard our visitors hold in the parks.”
TripAdvisor says that to qualify for a Certificate of Excellence, a business must “maintain an overall TripAdvisor rating of at least four out of five; have a minimum number of reviews; and have been listed on TripAdvisor for at least twelve months.” These awards are announced annually in May.
The Hall of Fame recognition for the Alabama State Parks system totaled nine as Gulf State Park in Gulf Shores was recognized in three areas: Beaches/State Parks/Nature & Parks/Outdoor Activities; State Parks/Piers & Boardwalks, Nature & Parks, Sights and Landmarks, Outdoor Activities; and the Gulf State Park Campground for Specialty Lodging.
This fall Gulf State Park is going to open its new $100 million lodge and conference center. The lodge historically made the park system more money than the other 21 state parks combined before the old lodge was destroyed by a hurricane. The park system is hoping that the new lodge will be similarly successful.
The other Hall of Fame designees are Cathedral Caverns State Park in Woodville (Caverns & Caves/Nature & Parks); Chewacla State Park in Auburn (State Parks/Nature & Parks); DeSoto State Park in Fort Payne (State Parks/Nature & Parks); Joe Wheeler State Park in Rogersville (State Parks/Nature & Parks); Monte Sano State Park in Huntsville (State Parks/Nature & Parks); and Oak Mountain State Park in Pelham (State Parks/Nature & Parks/Biking Trails/Outdoor Activities).
Four of the parks, or parks attractions, were back-to-back winners, picking up Certificates of Excellence in 2017 and 2018. Those are Cheaha State Park in Delta (State Parks/Nature & Parks); DeSoto Falls (Mountains/Nature & Wildlife Areas/State Parks/Waterfalls/Nature & Parks); Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail at Gulf State Park (Hiking Trails/Nature & Parks/Outdoor Activities); Lake Guntersville State Park (State Parks/Nature & Parks); and Wind Creek State Park in Alexander City (State Parks/Nature & Parks).
Two of the parks were awarded Certificates of Excellence for the first time: Meaher State Park in Spanish Fort (State Parks/Nature & Parks); and Rickwood Caverns State Park in Warrior (State Parks/Nature & Parks).
The Alabama State Parks is a division of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. The division maintains 22 parks encompassing approximately 48,000 acres of land and water. These parks rely on visitor fees and the support of other partners like local communities to fund the majority of their operations.
Tourism is an increasingly important sector of the Alabama economy.
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey recently announced, “The Alabama travel industry grew by $1 billion in 2017, to a record of $14.3 billion in expenditures, and increased jobs by 7,399 to some 186,906 employees. The industry grew by 7 percent and attracted an additional 810,000 visitors to top 26 million guests for the first time in state history.”