By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
State cuts hit coastal parks, historic areas
Fort Morris visitation down by half
Placeholder Image
BRUNSWICK - Summer is the season of swimming pools and picnics in parks, but this season is also one of economic troubles, as state parks along Georgia's coast continue to cope with shorter hours and smaller staffs while trying to attract visitors.

Fort Morris Historic Site, in Liberty County, is now only open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays. The site offers a self-guided tour of the Revolutionary War battleground, but often does guided tours for large events and school groups.

Arthur Edgar, the site manager and its only full-time employee, said that the site's visitor numbers are down compared to what they once were, entirely because of the operating hours being cut in half.

"You can have a good week and you can have a bad week," Edgar said, "Back-to-school time tends to be a slow time. Not as many people are traveling because they're getting their kids back in school."

In the 2010 fiscal year that ended June 30, the site had 5,809 visitors, half the roughly 10,000 visitors it had the year before, when it was open seven days a week.

As a non-profit state organization, it operates as a service to the community, but is making ends meet by using the Georgia State Park Campground Host program, which provides campgrounds to traveling retirees in exchange for volunteer work.

Hofwyl-Broadfield Plantation in Glynn County is also only open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays. Site manager Bill Giles said visitation has been about the same lately, and has been steadily rising.

The site has from 50 to 100 visitors daily, and gives seven tours each day. Giles theorized that more people are coming to Hofwyl per day instead of the same total number being spread over more days. The site remains short-staffed, however, with just three full-time rangers to give tours and do site maintenance. Giles estimated that being closed for half the week has cost the state about $35,000 per year in revenue.

"We're just doing the best we can," he said.

Crooked River State Park, in St. Marys, has remained open seven days a week but has had to keep its swimming pool closed for the past four years, with no one to operate it or perform maintenance, because of budget cuts.

Jessica Aldridge, assistant manager, said that despite the fact that it's been closed for quite a while, visitors still ask about the pool, and its unavailability has been affecting day visitors.

An interpretive ranger position to explain the ecology of the park has been empty for some time, and the park has frozen the position because of cost concerns. Aldridge said that this is unfortunate and has caused difficulties because it is the most visible position to visitors.

However, Aldridge said Crooked River has continued to host a steady stream of campers and cottage visitors, at a rate of about 150 per week.

Aldridge said the pool will likely never re-open because of erosion damage to its foundation. "Most likely we would have to build a new pool if we wanted to re-open it," she said.

Sign up for our e-newsletters