Outdoor enthusiasts in the state of Alabama have been horrified and outraged at reports that have been circulating in the last couple months about 15 of the 22 Alabama State Parks closing in 2016.
When state lawmakers made the decision to pull $11.4 million from the 2016 budget that supports the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources ($10.4 million of which goes to state parks), state parks all over Alabama hung their heads in defeat and implemented plans to shut their gates in the near future.
In response, State Parks Director Greg Lein has encouraged people to discuss the potential closings with friends, family, and local elected officials. Lein also advised people to go to the parks and “bring 10 of your friends.” It seems visitors have been taking his advice. Four of these parks—Bladon Springs, Chickasaw, Buck’s Pocket, and Paul M. Grist—had planned to close on May 1, but then the community stepped in. With tremendous support from patrons, that close date has at least been postponed.
There are many suggestions from all over the state about how to save our parks, anything from bringing in new revenue sources, using private CPA’s for audits, and charging an entry fee. But the best way that we can show our support to the state legislature is easier than you think: Get outside and use the parks.
Here is the list of parks that are on the list to close, what makes them shine, and why you should visit them:
1. B ladon Springs
One of the smaller state parks, Bladon Springs State Park is a 357-acre park with a fascinating history and subtly charming landscape. In 1838, the park was originally opened as a private spa, where visitors traveling from far and wide could experience the supposedly curing properties of the four mineral wells in the park. It was converted to a state park in 1934, and today, you can now use one of the 10 RV sites, the playground, the picnic area, and the birding trail for your casual enjoyment. Open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily
Chickasaw is a slightly more rural state park than Bladon Springs, with 520 acres, three tent camping sites, and three RV sites. With a central playground, an open greenspace, and easy-going camping opportunities, it's a great place to bring the family and enjoy the weekend away from the pressures of city life. Open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily
3. Buck’s Pocket
Buck’s Pocket offers beautiful shaded and private RV campsites, 24 in all, with recent renovations for marked improvement. Additionally, there are plenty of areas for tent camping and 15 miles of moderate to easy hiking trails. With wildflowers, a breathtaking overlook, and a lake, Buck’s Pocket is great choice for the campers, backpackers, and hikers. Open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily
4. Lake Guntersville
Lake Guntersville State Park is a popular location for campers, especially tent campers, who can enjoy lakeside sites and perfect places for pole fishing. This is the place to go if you want to spot a bald eagle, as the eagle population has steadily increased over the past few years. The 6,000 acres of gorgeous woodlands will make you feel as if you’re in a wonderland, with towering trees and 36 miles of hiking and biking trails. Plus this park is pet-friendly, so your dogs can come along as well. Open 8 a.m. to sundown daily.
5. Paul Grist
Anglers from all areas of the state will love fishing at Paul Grist State Park . The 100-acre lake smack in the middle of the park is stocked with a variety of fish to keep fishermen busy. Boat rentals are available, as are accommodating picnic areas, 20 miles of horseback riding trails (and horses available for rent), 20 miles of incredible hiking trails, a swimming area, and a playground. Open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily
One of the favorite things about Florala State Park is the white, sandy beaches “similar to the Gulf” on the shores of Lake Jackson. Sun worshippers will get their beach fix without traveling hours to get to the ocean. In the day-use area, you can find a lovely picnic area and 200-foot pier. And the park’s 28 campsites allow plenty of space for you and your friends to stick around for the weekend. Open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily
7. Blue Springs
Blue Springs State Park is popular for the Wiregrass Birding Trail. Fifty modern campsites and plenty of primitive camping invite all kinds of outdoor enthusiasts to stay for a night or two, or more. But the highlight of the park is the swimming areas. The water source is a natural spring that gushes 3,600 gallons of water per minute into the pools. Round sand-bottom lagoons will entice you to spend the entire day in the water. Open 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. March 1 – Sept 30; 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct 1 – Feb 28
8. Roland Cooper
With 47 improved and 13 primitive campsites, there is plenty of room for everyone at Roland Cooper . Dog-friendly cabins are available, too, if you’re not that interested in roughing it. Boat rentals will keep you busy on the gorgeous, pristine waters, and a 3,300-yard, par-36 golf course will give you plenty of opportunity to practice your swing. Open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily
9. Rickwood Caverns
Rickwood Caverns gives you a very different kind of state park experience. A giant cave 175 feet below ground with 260-million-year-old rock formations will fill you with wonder, and you’ll enjoy the cool underground temperatures in the blazing heat of summer. Open 8 a.m. to sundown daily
Cheaha State Park is a local favorite, with endless activities and breathtaking views. Cabins, chalets, a lodge, and a variety of camping spots will have you marking your calendar for annual visits. A gem mine, museum, bike trails, waterfall trails, hiking trails, rappelling and rock climbing, swimming and amazing scenic views will keep your days loaded up with fun in nature. Bring an extra memory card for your camera. You’re going to need it. Open 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily
11. Lake Lurleen
Multiple pages would be needed to describe what makes this park so great. Besides being serene and scenic, Lake Lurleen is a blast with more than 23 miles of trails, a gorgeous lake, nature center, swimming, boat rentals, fishing and golf. Plus it’s one of the top spots for mountain biking in the state. Open 7 a.m. to sundown daily.
Located on the western brow of Lookout Mountain close by the quaint mountain village of Mentone, AL, DeSoto State Park is seriously spectacular and one of the gems of Alabama. DeSoto Falls and nearby Little River Falls will give you many picturesque opportunities for photos. There is plenty of camping with improved campsites, primitive sites, and backpacking sites. There are hiking trails with hidden treasures such as waterfalls and rock formations, easy enough to bring the kids along to have their own adventure in the woods. Open sunrise to sundown daily
Lakepoint State Park is definitely for the water-lovers. With a marina and lakeside cottages, this place is a paradise of peace and quiet. Located in the middle of a historic, sweet southern town, Lakepoint offers boat rentals, nature and hiking trails, fishing and golf, as well as plenty of campsites and local area attractions.Open 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily
14. Joe Wheeler
The Joe Wheeler State Park is the shining diamond among campgrounds. There is no shortage of space with 116 campsites to choose from, both RV and primitive. A beach area, marina, trails, and a golf course will either keep you busy or give you plenty of opportunities to lounge and relax. Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily
15. Frank Jackson
Casual hikers will love Frank Jackson State Park with 3 miles of easy walking trails. A boardwalk over to Frank Jackson’s unique island will give you more walking trail loops and plenty of nature to enjoy. A smooth, placid lake will be your source of tranquility, and with 32 RV campsites fit for tents as well, you’ll have no reason not to stick around for the weekend. Arrive curiosity and leave with refreshment. Open 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily.