By Charley Grimsley
Amendment 2 on State Parks has been advertised as a way to protect state park revenues. If that were all it did, it would be good. But like a Trojan horse, hidden inside is something you probably didn’t know. Amendment 2 would allow state park privatization, and turning our state parks over to private corporations is something we should never do. Look at the following description of Amendment 2 from the website Ballotpedia: “A ‘yes’ vote supports this proposal to prohibit reallocating state park funds for other uses and allow the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources to contract with non-state entities for the operation and maintenance of land and facilities that are part of the state park system.”
This means that if Amendment 2 passes, we would be voting to hand over our state parks, land, lodges and all, to private corporations. And if the politicians implement Amendment 2 like they did with the Hilton contract for the luxury hotel currently being constructed at Gulf State Park, they will lease the parks without competitive bid.
The companies would charge you whatever they want, and many people would be priced out of our state parks forever. Years ago the state leased the major state park lodges to private companies, and the experience was an abysmal failure.
The companies made millions, but because they did not properly maintain the facilities, at the end of the leases we the people inherited state park lodges that were in a terrible state of repair.
To fix this mess, in 1998 we the people approved Amendment 617 of the Alabama Constitution that authorized a $110 million bond issue to renovate the state parks with the express condition that privatization of the renovated parks could no longer occur.
But now that we are on the hook for a $110 million bond issue caused by the first privatization mess, with Amendment 2 the politicians are asking us to jump right back into the fire by privatizing them again. State park privatization was a bad idea the first time, and it is a bad idea now.
On Nov. 8, vote ‘no’ on amendment 2.
Charley Grimsley is a former state commissioner of conservation and natural resources.