Open letter to Gov. Bentley about Paul Grist park

Published 11:16 pm Monday, November 9, 2015

I understand that the State of Alabama has been undergoing complicated financial obligations arising from years of poor budgeting decisions. I respect that you have worked to address these issues head on and to establish a more stable financial base for our state’s future.

However, I would like to urge you to reopen Paul M. Grist State Park, as the benefits that our state parks provide for our state vastly outweigh the cost to our General Fund Budget.

While our state needs to consider new methods of revenue to create a solvent General Fund budget, closing these parks has been a strictly political move to make a point to legislators like myself who won’t vote to raise regressive taxes on working families. This decision has come at a tremendous cost to the families who depend on these parks for learning and leisure, and I would urge you not to show political unrest towards the people who we both took an oath to represent.

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I have been, and will continue to be, ready and willing to discuss options to secure additional revenue for our state’s budget; but I will not compromise on the values that I was elected to represent in Montgomery. I firmly believe there is a solution to this problem grounded in compromise — not in winners and losers but in give and take — to creatively work together toward an amicable resolution for all parties and all people involved.

That solution must include opening Paul M. Grist State Park and providing a generation of families and friends with the opportunity to grow and bond in God’s beautiful gift of nature. To close the doors on such a gift is not just a disservice to the people of Alabama, but to our state’s legacy of caring for Creation.

Dallas County Probate Judge Kimbrough Ballard has submitted a proposal to State Park Director Greg Lein. Judge Ballard and the County Commission has proposed that the state allow the county to take over the operation of the Paul M. Grist State Park until the state is financially able to resume operations. The leaders in Dallas County are flexible with the terms of operating the park, and we are eager to work with your office to make this transition. It is my understanding that equipment has been removed and moved to other parks that are fortunately still open. Such actions are sending an adverse and divisive message to the citizens of Dallas County.

As a good show of faith, I am requesting that you allow the state’s property to remain at Grist State Park and allow the county to assume the cost of daily operations until the state is able to resume control of the park.

Governor, I will continue to work with your office to address these budgetary issues in a manner that is financially solvent for our state’s future, and I hope you will continue to work with me by reopening Paul M. Grist State Park.