Some camp­ing, ranger pa­trols sus­pended at Hard La­bor Creek

The Covington News - - Front page -

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.

Mandi Singer/The Cov­ing­ton News

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.

Mandi Singer/The Cov­ing­ton News

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.

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