The current economic crisis has had a unfortunate impact on the Georgia state park system, with lost jobs, operational cutbacks and the closings of some recreational areas and historic sites. It seems that historic locations are the primary focus of the cuts because they normally do not generate as much income as the state-owned golf courses, campgrounds and lakes. Some, I would venture to say, do not take in enough to pay the average annual wage of one employee. These legendary places, no doubt, have survived, presumably, by being subsidized over the years through the dedication of volunteers, private donations and our tax dollars.
Yet, who can put a price tag on such treasures? Are they not our most endangered species? They are each one of a kind.
Perhaps these changes are only temporary, until the economy improves, but with each passing day there is less speculation as to WHEN the economy will come back and more concern IF it ever will. In the event of an economic rebound, the historic venues may no longer be there to reopen. For certain, a valuable resource of gifted, trained and experienced employees will be long gone.
I have often marveled, considering the humble wages, at the high quality of state employees found at historic sites. When a site closes, these excellent people seek employment elsewhere, and if the site re-opens, they are very unlikely to return. Moreover, I suspect we will see Georgia divest itself of some historic locations by selling them to local governments, private individuals or, God forbid, even developers. I know of at least one case in which a site has gone to a county government and, in some cases, these places will be in better hands. I have heard that there are more than 20 such parks for sale in California alone, and, no doubt, that same scenario is being played out across the nation.
However, this is Georgia, and it is my concern that further closings will come later this year as the cutbacks cripple the sites from adequately serving the public demand that remains. This is failure by design. Our state park system may forever change to a mere recreational management endeavor and the treasured places of antiquity will fade into the past.
John Wayne Dobson is a resident of Macon.