Hatcher said the parks system has been operating under state budget cuts for a number of years and has had to work with a large number of unfilled job vacancies.
“The cumulative effect is pretty significant,” Hatcher said. “There’s almost a 20 percent vacancy rate.”
At the request of the governor, the parks system is prepar- ing a list of recommendations for a 6-10 percent budget cut.
In the meantime, all parks maintenance projects have been suspended as has all travel for parks employees Hatcher said.
Ronnie Eakins, regional operations manager for Georgia State Parks said there are about three positions at Hard Labor Creek that they have not been able to fill because of the state’s hiring moratorium for all state agencies.
“We’re running the park with about two-thirds the normal staff,” he said.
Other cost cutting measures at Hard Labor Creek and other parks include the scaling back of the number of times the grass is cut to save on fuel.
“At Hard Labor this month, we used 64 less gallons of fuel than we did the previous month,” Eakins said.
The parks are also reducing the number of ranger patrols.
“Instead of seeing the ranger two to three times a night, you may only see him one time a night depending on the usage of the park,” Eakins said.
Some camping areas Hard Labor Creek, which has 63 campsites, are also being closed to save on the costs of maintaining so many sites and on the power used to run the water heaters that service those sites Eakins said.
All of these cost cutting measures at Hard Labor have resulted in a $1,000 cost savings in the first month that they were put in place he said.
“Everything we can do at each individual site is going to be crucial to helping us maintain our operation,” Eakins said.