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Amicalola dodges restructuring

State looking to privatize lodge

POSTED: June 3, 2009 4:00 a.m.

Amicalola Falls State Park appears to have dodged the state’s first round of restructuring, but Department of Natural Resources officials say the lodge may not be so fortunate.

  

Spokeswoman Kim Hatcher said the DNR hopes to find an agency, business or organization to run the lodge as a for-profit venture so it will no longer have to rely on state funds.

  

“If that is not possible, there is a possibility the lodge could close,” Hatcher said Friday.

  

Her remarks came two days after the DNR announced it would reduce operations and services at five state parks and 12 historic sites. The moves are aimed at offsetting a 24 percent drop in revenue.

  

Plans also call for monthly furloughs, eliminating 81 vacant positions and laying off 95 full- and part-time employees.

  

In addition, fees for for accommodations, recreational activities, interpretive programs and parking are being raised.

  

DNR Commissioner Chris Clark called the moves “heart wrenching” but necessary.

  

“We are exploring every avenue to manage budget reductions and revenue shortfalls, to properly care for our state parks and historic sites, and to minimize the impact on Georgia citizens and communities,” he said.

  

Hatcher said several Amicalola Falls positions in maintenance, the gift shop and housekeeping have been cut or will remain open.

  

“People are hearing the state parks are having problems, so they aren’t visiting as much,” she said.

  

Park management is looking for ways to fill the voids.

  

“With that million dollar view that no other state park has we host a lot of weddings” said Bill Tanner, park manager. “We’re focusing on things like bringing in more weddings.”

  

The lodge also has reduced the daily breakfast buffet to a continental breakfast, so cooks and servers can work later shifts.

  

The DNR has looked into privatizing the lodge in the past, according to Dawson County Commission Chair Mike Berg, who had expected the park to be included in the list of changes.

  

“Now, I’m being told the state park changes are taking place in three phases,” he said. “Amicalola Falls is not on the first list, but I’m being told it’s on the second.”

Berg has been approached by representatives from DNR to “see what the county can do” to keep the park from closing.

  

“I expect to sit down with DNR ... to talk about the long-range plan for Amicalola Falls based on the current revenue situation with the state,” he said.

  

Residents can do their part, Tanner said, by continuing to visit the park.

  

In addition to camping and hiking, Amicalola Falls offers a variety of family activities.

  

A children’s fishing rodeo is set for 8 a.m. Saturday at the park’s reflection pool.

  

The rodeo also falls on National Trails Day, which features several activities throughout the weekend.

  

There is a $5 park entrance fee, but the events are free.

  

E-mail Michele Hester at michele@dawsonnews.com.

 

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