GUNTERSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – Alabama Governor Robert Bentley declared 2014 to be the year of Alabama State Parks. As part of that directive the director of the park system is conduction a listening tour across the state to hear from the people.
“We are operating a user pay system,” says director Greg Lein. “So our customers are really paying for everything. So we feel an obligation to have a dialog with them to make sure they are getting what they want.”
Lein says a misconception among a majority of Alabamians is that tax dollars fund the 22 parks across the state. He says the parks are actually supported by the money the parks make from visitors.
He says visitors have been a challenge at Lake Guntersville because of the 2011 tornadoes which did extensive damage and forced the park to be closed for several months. Lein says even after the park reopened, many of the usual visitors didn’t return.
“We feel that we are only now really back on our legs,” he said. ” And sometimes when you have a setting like this and people are accustomed to coming to it year after year and it’s closed because of an emergency like a tornado, they find somewhere else to go. So even when you are fully operational again, the business doesn’t just come back.”
Lein is also on a mission to modernize the parks with new amenities. A zip line course at Gulf State Park has been a success and it’s proposed for Guntersville.
“This was one of the first parks that sort of rose to the top in terms of, ‘hey wouldn’t that be neat to take this resort park at Guntersville or the resort park over at Joe Wheeler and add some of these more modern eco-tourism type amenities.’”
2014 marks the 75th Anniversary of the Alabama State Park system.