During the past two years most states have cut state park spending, prioritizing other services such as education and health care. In May, California Gov. Jerry Brown announced plans to save money by closing up to 70 state parks.
In Georgia, funding for state parks has been cut 46 percent since 2008, according to Todd Holbrook, deputy Department of Natural Resources (DNR) commissioner. Agency officials said 169 people have been eliminated from the parks payroll. Funding for DNR will fall from $131 million in fiscal 2008 to a projected $89.7 million this year, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution recently reported.
DNR has cut maintenance at parks and lakes, eliminated aquariums, and reduced swimming pool hours at state facilities. No state parks have closed, but facilities within a few parks, like a lodge or cottage facility, have closed and hours have been cut.
Given this economic climate, it’s a miracle that Chattahoochee Bend State Park ever opened. It’s Georgia’s first new state park since Tallulah Gorge in 1993.
According to Holbrook, the new park will cost about $284,000 a year to run and have four or five full-time staffers. With funding slashed since the recession started, state parks throughout Georgia and most other states are now relying heavily on volunteers to operate kiosks, clean bathrooms, and tidy up campsites.
At the recent (July 1) official opening of Chattahoochee Bend State Park, State Rep. Lynn Smith called it “a new model going forward.”
Chattahoochee Bend opened following funding by the State of Georgia, Coweta County, the federal government, and a private foundation. Also there was work by county crews, people hired by the state, and by the Friends of Chattahoochee Bend State Park—which was organized long before the park opened.
Andy Bush who represented his boss, U.S. Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, stated, “This is a true collaborative effort between the state and local governments.”
Glenn Flake, current Friends president, presented commemorative paddles to several people, including Trent Wickland, the park manager. “Our Friends group will never leave you up the creek without a paddle,” Flake pledged to Wickland.
The Friends group built six miles of trails and footbridges. A federal grant helped develop RV and tent camping areas at Chattahoochee Bend.
Becky Kelley, DNR’s director of parks, recreation and historic sites, said, “I think in this day and time, we are dependent on the local community and volunteers to help get us through. It is truly a vision of our future to be able to rely on this degree of support from the local community.”
Kelley added there are “so many people” who played a part in bringing the park to opening day. She offered “a great shout-out” to them all and predicted “generations and generations” will enjoy the park.
Chattahoochee Bend State Park was built due to the timing and support of the local community. Coweta County spent more than $1.2 million to build roads and parking in Chattahoochee Bend, Kelley said.
Chattahoochee Bend State Park
Georgia’s newest state park showcases a spectacular tract of wilderness in northwest Coweta County. Located in a graceful bend of the Chattahoochee River, the park is a haven for paddlers, campers, and anglers. At 2,910 acres, Chattahoochee Bend is one of Georgia’s largest state parks, protecting seven miles of river frontage. A boat ramp provides easy access to the water, while more than six miles of wooded trails are open for hiking and nature photography. An observation platform provides views of the river and forest.
Although most of the park has been left in its natural state, campers have several options for overnight stays. RVers have their own camping section with spacious pull-through and back-in sites. Tent campers can choose from riverfront platform sites, walk-in sites, and traditional developed campsites. Bathhouses with hot showers are a short walk from most campsites.
Operating Hours: 7 a.m.-10 p.m.; gates lock at 10 p.m. (NO late access)
Size: 2,910 acres
Hiking: 6 miles of trails, observation platform
Camping: 25 RV/tent sites ($25-$28); 16 riverside platform sites ($20); 12 tent walk-in sites ($25); 10 tent/pop-up sites ($25); 4 camping shelters, screened Adirondack-style camping ($35 each or $110 for four); reservations available
Address: 425 Bobwhite Way, Newnan , GA 30263
Web Site: Chattahoochee Bend
Contact: (770) 254-7271
Georgia On My Mind
Georgia, Georgia, the whole day through
Just an old sweet song keeps Georgia on my mind.
Georgia, Georgia, a song of you
Comes as sweet and clear as moonlight through the pines
—words by Stuart Gorrell and music by Hoagy Carmichael