This was not on the Sentinel’s section of the website, it was in the Times-Georgian’s.  I have to argue with Hatcher’s quote that “most visitors” won’t notice the change–they will if they happen to go to the park on a Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday and discover the visitor center and gift shop are closed.  Seems like they would want to keep it open to get that revenue from the gift shop.  Supposedly operating costs of the visitor’s center were to be pretty low, according to this article (an excerpt is below, before the Sentinel article).  I guess the DNR thought they could save money by cutting jobs.

Many of the building’s design features will also reduce operating costs as follows:

  • The rainwater collection reuse/wastewater system will significantly reduce water use. The siting of the building with a south facing and glass and glazing placement with sunshades will reduce heating and lighting costs.
  • Interior photocells and occupancy sensors will contribute to the energy savings for lighting.
  • The high efficiency HVAC system will cost less to operate than a standard system.

Six jobs cut at state park
by Bobby Moore
The Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) announced May 27 a restructuring of state parks which includes six jobs being cut at Sweetwater Creek State Park and a reduction in days of service for the park’s visitor’s center and gift shop from seven to four days a week.

Officials said the announced changes, which include an elimination of 12 percent of the state parks work force and furloughs for some employees, are the result of a nearly 39 percent reduction in state appropriations and a 24 percent projected loss of revenue.

Kim Hatcher, public affairs coordinator for the DNR, said six positions have been eliminated from Sweetwater Creek State Park, including two that were already vacant.

Of the four filled positions cut, only the bait shop manager was a full-time employee, said Joseph Bello, assistant park manager.

“These decisions were heart-wrenching but were made using a business case analysis,” said DNR Commissioner Chris Clark in a press release. “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.”

Hatcher added she is unsure how the staff cuts will affect Sweetwater Creek State Park, though she did say no changes are expected to be made that will limit the services currently available to the public, including the walking trails and picnic shelters.

“Most visitors will not notice any changes to park operations at Sweetwater Creek outside of an increased parking fee,” Hatcher added.

Parking fees at all state parks increased May 20 to $5 daily and $50 annually.

According to a DNR press release, officials hope to generate an additional $1.2 million with the increase. Additionally, state parks and historic sites will begin charging for many services that used to be free, such as interpretive programs and guided hikes.

Bello said the gift shop will now be closed Mondays through Wednesdays because of the statewide budget crunch.

According to the park’s Web site, http://www.gastateparks.org/info/sweetwater, the visitor’s center is “the most environmentally responsible building in Georgia.” The center employs composting toilets, rainwater collection and re-use systems and other envronmentally-friendly features that make it a platinum certified facility by LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design).

The Department of Natural Resources operates 48 state parks and 15 state historic sites. A wide range of overnight accommodations, outdoor activities, historical programs and group facilities draw 11 million visitors each year.

For more information or to make reservations, visit http://www.GeorgiaStateParks.org or call 1-800-864-7275.

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