Some camping, ranger patrols suspended at Hard Labor Creek
The governor’s call for more statewide budget cuts has the state’s public parks system rushing to find areas to scale back, and Hard Labor Creek State Park is among them.
Due to the state’s estimated $1.5 billion shortfall, Gov. Sonny Perdue is looking at closing up to 13 state parks and historic sites, according to Kim Hatcher, public affairs coordinator for Georgia State Parks.
“There’s been a very long list of budget cut recommendations that have been approved by the [Department of Natural Resources] board,” Hatcher said. “I couldn’t tell you one way or the other which sites would be on that. I would think that parks that are pulling in more revenue would be the least likely [to be closed].”
In 2007, Hard Labor Creek had a $59,485 profit margin, according to the parks system’s FY 2007 year end report. Hard Labor had the eighth highest profit margin of the state’s 72 public parks, which should ensure that it is not one of the 13 parks to be shuttered.
Hard Labor Creek occupies 5,800 acres in Walton County and is well known for its 18-hole golf course. The park also has two lakes, 20 cottages for renting, picnic shelters and barbecue pits, a swimming beach and a horse riding ring among other amenities.
Last year 330,000 people visited the park, making it the state’s 12th most popular park.
Most of the parks in the Georgia system run at a loss — 59 of the 72 parks ran at a loss in 2007 with losses ranging from $3,000 to $700,000. The entire parks system has a budget of $4.3 million. Last year the system achieved a small profit margin of $7,000.
A boat dock rests on the banks of Lake Rutledge in Hard Labor Creek State Park adjacent to the beach area Tuesday. The park is operating on a tightened budget due to state funding cuts.
The beach area at Hard Labor Creek State Park is marked with a sign warning visitors to swim at their own risk because no lifeguard is on duty. Hard Labor Creek and other state agencies are undergoing a mandated hiring freeze.