Park’s success depends on public (Letter to the Editor)

To the editor:

The Alabama Forestry Commission reopened Little River State Park and the Claude D. Kelley Recreational Area on March 17, 2018 for day use on weekends. The operation of the park has been a funding issue for the last several years. Ironman Ministries operated the park for the Alabama Forestry Commission for six years ending on January 1, 2017. They were unable to continue because of financial issues.

At that time the state was forced to close the park for lack of funding and limited personnel and this situation has not changed. The Forestry Commission has always desired for the park to be in operation and open to the public. Plans are for the park to be open on Saturdays and Sundays for day time use for the near future.

Little River State Park has a rich history and is an asset for local communities and counties. The park was home to a Civilian Conservations Corps camp in the 1930s and the home of the Auburn University Forestry Summer Camp for students in the 1960s and 70s. The Alabama State Parks Division operated the park until 2004 when they transferred it to the Forestry Commission because of a lack of funding.

Many people from Monroe, Conecuh, Escambia and Baldwin counties have memories of spending time there. I have talked with people who were married there and those that have had family reunions at the park for many years.

The Forestry Commission is trying to open the park on a limited basis with hopes of attracting a vendor to operate it. Long term operation will depend on use by the public. The Forestry Commission has lost approximately 110 employees statewide since 2010, one third of their work force. With their primary mission being the protection of lives and property, it is difficult to balance other duties.

If the park is to be successful it will take the support of the public. The park must produce revenue in order to remain open. If the public utilizes the park its chances of remaining open are far better. The Forestry Commission is taking proposals for those interested in operating the park. Proposals can be sent to Alabama Forestry Commission, 887 Veterans Ave., Monroeville, AL 36460.

State Forester Rick Oates deserves our thanks for trying to help with Little River State Park.

Please remember the park when planning an outdoor day. It is a valuable asset to local communities and rich in history.

Gary Cole
Alabama Forestry Commission