addressing concerns about the state parks amendment
Some of our members have reached out to us about Amendment 2 after reading John Archibald's opinion piece on AL.com about how he believes voters should interpret and vote on the amendments that will appear on the November 8 ballot. New questions arose after Charley Grimsley wrote that Amendment 2 would "turn our state parks over to private corporations." Both authors' arguments are rooted in a misunderstanding of Amendment 2's third paragraph.
It is already legal for contractors to operate facilities inside Alabama's state parks. In fact, a partnership with a contractor is how Roland Cooper State Park was able to reopen this Labor Day after being closed due to budget shortfalls. These contractors must go through the formal bidding process required for any companies wanting to work with the state to ensure that the lowest responsible bidder is awarded the contract. This was the case for the company who won the contract with Roland Cooper.
If you read the full text of Amendment 2 you can see that the 3rd paragraph specifies that it's a change to an existing amendment, Amendment 617. As currently written, Amendment 617 prohibits the use of outside contractors when bond money has been used to construct or repair a facility. If it passes, the only thing Amendment 2 would change about how parks are operated is to allow facilities that were paid for by a state bond issue to also use contractors. You can see the full details of this change by reading the text of the legislation that called for Amendment 2 during the 2016 state legislative session. The relevant passage begins on page 3.
Conservation Alabama believes it is vital to pass Amendment 2 to make sure our state parks can keep the money they have earned. Approximately 80% of parks' funding comes from park users in the form of admission fees, camping fees, and room rentals. The legislature has taken $15 million from state parks over the past five years and the system just can't sustain those kinds of losses any longer without threat of additional park closures.
Ballot language is critical and there has been some confusion on Amendment 2's goal. Bottom line, this amendment protects funding for our state parks, and we encourage Alabamians to vote yes. Every Alabamian has a right to enjoy our state parks, and passing Amendment 2 will make sure those beautiful places are available for generations to come.