Park supporters hold rally in Monte Sano State Park

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - Saturday morning, dozens of park supporters gathered at the amphitheater at Monte Sano State Park to show support for the system facing looming closures.

"The State Parks Coalition decided to come together with groups and businesses across the state to raise awareness about the parks' current budget crisis," said Sandra Killen-Burroughs, vice president of the coalition.

In April, park leaders started working on a contingency plan to close 15 parks by the 2016 fiscal year if state lawmakers stripped the system of any more funding.  Included on that list are Joe Wheeler, Bucks Pocket, DeSoto, and Lake Guntersville.

"What we're talking about is the budgeting and the very real potential that it will bankroll the funds out of our account and collapse the park system," said State Parks Director Greg Lein.

Park leaders and advocates say the users of the parks bring the majority of the funding used by the system.

"The fact that we have 200 fewer staff on payroll today than we had 2 years ago and 25% of our workforce are volunteers, those are small examples of how lean of a program we're running," said Lein as he addressed the group.

Supporters are urged to contact legislators to voice concerns about park monies.

"They're going to make that money we put in that slot and use it to fund other stuff," said Mike Dalen, Chairman of the Land Trust of North Alabama. "So if you don't act this week, you can bet, maybe not Monte Sano, but there's going to be a lot of other parks that are going to be closing."

Thus far in the second special session, legislators have not made any decisions on the state parks' budget crisis.

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