Legislators meet citizens at DeSoto State Park to talk closure concerns

Northeast Alabama
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DEKALB COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT) - Monday, the lodge of DeSoto State Park in DeKalb  County was filled to capacity with concerned citizens, brooding over talks of park closures across the state. State Senator Steve Livingston of Jackson County and Representative Nathaniel Ledbetter called the meeting through a Facebook invite. They say they've been inundated with emails and calls of concerns from folks in their district, so they wanted to quell fears and provide some perspective.

They said, not even half way through the current legislative session, there's still plenty of time to see Alabama's evolving budget situation continue to do just that; evolve.  But for right now, they say they can only hope it's what's best for beloved DeSoto State Park, and so many others.

"This is God's Country," said Dana Goggins, whose back yard is literally in DeSoto Park. She says she fears if the park goes away, many young people in the area will start going down the wrong path, instead of down the hiking trail. Goggons says the economic draw of the park is one thing, but when you live, work and play around the natural wonder, it means a great deal more.

"This is a solid community, here. And we all care. There are people coming from all directions coming together to find out what we can do," Goggins said.

Livingston and Ledbetter spent their time letting folks know, the scenarios most are forecasting may be premature.

"We don't know what will come out, you know, like I said in there it may end up 1% cut in state parks, may end up being a 5% increase; we don't know what will come out of the general fund budget -- give the budget process an opportunity to work," Senator Livingston asked.

Both legislators did say they're dedicated to finding alternative revenue streams in a worst case scenario.

"It's heartwarming to know what kind of community support we have," said Park Superintendent Ken Thomas. Thomas says he was blown away by the crowd at the lodge Monday and encouraged them all to keep on doing exactly what they are now -- supporting the park.

"We're open; we're taking reservations; all our interpreter programs are still open -- we're here," Thomas reminded.

Mostly, Ledbetter and Livingston want folks living in their districts to know they're continuing to work for their best interests. Their main message? Remain 'positive and patient.'

Senator Livingston says even after the fiscal year is over in October, DeSoto State Park could still operate for 7 months to a year, even with no additional funding.

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