By a wide margin, Alabama voters approved the amendment on the May 24 ballot to provide as much as $80 million in funding for improvements and enhancements to Alabama’s 21 State Parks.
“I would like to thank the voters of Alabama for their overwhelming support of our beautiful State Parks,” said Chris Blankenship, commissioner of the ADCNR. “This will give us the funds to make much needed improvements to the campgrounds across the state, bringing them into the 21st century.
“A lot of our campgrounds were built when camping was a pop-up camper and a tent. We’re way past that now with the larger motorhomes with three air conditioners that need 50-amp service. We want to make sure we provide for citizens and our guests moving forward. Our day use areas need some new bathroom facilities to try to expand the day use in our parks. We want to build some accessible playgrounds so that our citizens of all ability types will have the opportunity to play at our playgrounds and enjoy our parks.
“We have parks that don’t have cabins. If people don’t have an RV or motorhome, they are not able to enjoy our parks as much as we would like. Our State Parks have been very successful the last few years under (director) Greg Lein and our new Deputy Director Matthew Capps. Every dime we make at the parks we put back into the parks to do good work.”
During the recent Conservation Advisory Board meeting at Lakepoint State Park in Eufaula, Blankenship welcomed Governor Kay Ivey to the Board meeting and highlighted her accomplishments in outdoor recreation.
Governor Ivey highlighted the impact outdoor recreation has on Alabama’s economy as well as reiterating her support for State Parks.
“Hunting, fishing, hiking and outdoor recreation, as managed by the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, is a $14 billion, with a B, economic driver for our state,” Governor Ivey said. “That’s especially important for rural areas. I thank the men and women of the DCNR for their hard work and their passion that they display every day to ensure we have fish, wildlife and access to public lands and waters, both today and tomorrow for future generations. Conservation also manages our beautiful Alabama State Parks, many of which I’ve had the pleasure of visiting. With this bond money, we can make the needed improvements and upgrades to our State Parks.”
Blankenship also provided an update on the effort to rebuild the portion of Gulf State Park Pier that was demolished by Hurricane Sally in 2020. The bids to do the work far exceeded expectations from the engineers.
“We thought the bids would come in between $4 million and $6 million; that was the estimated range from the engineering firm,” he said. “The lowest bid ended up being $12.5 million, so it was more than twice what we thought would be the high bid. We’re working with FEMA to get approval for the new amount. We’re not going to be shutting the pier down this summer to do the construction that we had planned. We’ll have to bid that again in late summer or early fall once we get the FEMA approvals.”
Alabama’s private recreational red snapper season opens May 27 for four-day weekends until the quota of 1.12 million pounds is expected to be reached.
Marine Resources Division Director Scott Bannon provided the Board with updates on recreational saltwater fishing license sales, red snapper and a much-improved oyster season. More than 140,000 recreational saltwater licenses were purchased for the current season.
On the Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) side, the Alabama Legislature passed legislation to create an enclosure gun deer season. It sets the hunting dates for those enclosures that opt into that season, which will be October 15 through January 6.
The Board also voted to allow the use of turkey decoys during the special youth and disabled hunting dates. For 2023 in Zones 1 and 3, those dates are March 17 and 18 for youth and March 24 for disabled hunts. In Zone 2, the dates are March 25 and 26 and March 31.