State Legislature Spares State Parks - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

02/25/05

State Legislature Spares State Parks

Public pressure apparently convinced state lawmakers to scrap the idea of closing state parks.

The Mississippi House voted to shutdown the parks as a budget cutting move, but reversed its decision this week after a flood of phone calls and e-mail.

Many people who use the parks say it was a silly idea from the start.

David Bond says lawmakers serious about closing state parks need to spend some time on the water at Paul B. Johnson .

"Obviously they're not fishermen. That's probably the only problem," said Bond.

He and fishing buddy Rick Triplet are happy to hear the "let's close the parks" plan hit a quick snag in the state legislature.

"I think it's a bad idea. All these lakes around here are great fisheries. A lot of guys around here depend on these lakes for past time," Bond explained.

"This is our camping area layout. On the back of that is our rules and regulations," said park volunteer, Daniel Blanchard, as he passed out maps at the front gate.

Blanchard volunteers at state parks across the country. He says closing parks isn't the money saver some might imagine.

"I honestly think that's a very foolish deal. Tennessee tried it a couple years ago. They did close their parks two days a week, some of them. They found out they lost more revenue than what they were trying to accomplish," he said.

Campsites and cabins both attract visitors to Paul B. Johnson. Snowbirds from the north and locals like the Lowman family enjoy this scenic getaway. Les Lowman says putting state parks on the budget chopping block makes little sense.

"We need to reevaluate how we're spending the money that's allocated for the state parks. And see if we can't come up with a better plan. If we have to cut back on some expenditures, but not close the park, that would be an absolutely last resort to shut down the parks," said Lowman.

The motto for Mississippi parks is "always in season". It appears the parks have survived this season of the annual legislative budget battle.

The Mississippi House voted Thursday to set aside seven million dollars to keep state parks open in the year that begins July first.

By Steve Phillips

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