Butler Park among those
to begin to sell alcohol next year
would allow private vendor
to operate food service
Helen E. McKinney
CARROLLTON, Ky. (July 2010) As part of a sweeping
reform of Kentuckys State Park system, visitors to Gen. Butler
Resort Park in Carrollton will soon be able to buy alcohol by the glass
at the parks restaurant.
System is made up of:
17 resort parks
24 recreation parks
11 historical sites
19 golf courses
More than 250 miles of trails
2,600 improved campsites
24 swimming pools
11 outdoor swimming beaches on rivers and lakes
Butler is among four state parks to add alchohol sales
as part of a new revenue-generating plan, announced in June. The others
are Buckhorn Lake, Lake Barkley and Jenny Wiley. All four parks are
located in wet counties.
State officials announced their Financial and Operations Strategic
Plan on June 10 at a press conference in Frankfort. The alcohol
sales alone are expected to generate at least $1 million in revenue
Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear says his administration is determined to
rectify a $6 million deficit in the state parks $30 million General
Fund budget for the next fiscal year. Lagging revenues throughout the
state have caused the administration to tighten its belt.
During this fiscal year, the Department of Parks received $35.8 million
from the General Fund, including $5 million in one-time money from the
federal stimulus program. The Strategic Plan, created by PROS Consulting
LLC, would operate over the next fiscal year with just $29.9 million,
the same amount spent in 2004.
In conjunction with the 85th year of the Kentucky State Parks System,
the parks decided to review their operations to identify ways to improve
the existing system. As a result, PROS Consulting contracted with the
Kentucky Tourism, Arts, and Heritage Cabinet to complete the strategic
The Executive Summary Report states that The original
intent of the Kentucky State Park System was to stimulate economic development
in rural areas through tourism, to provide quality recreation opportunities
for residents and visitors throughout the Commonwealth, and to preserve
and interpret Kentuckys significant natural, cultural, and historic
Budget shortfalls have made it hard to carry out the park systems original
intent as the report states that the state park system has declined
over the last 25 years due to insufficient funding. In an effort to
turn the tables, Beshears administration purposes to close all
17 state resort parks on Mondays and Tuesdays during winter months (a
savings of $600,000), use temporary agencies to hire seasonal part-time
works and cut full-time workers hours (a savings of $2.5 million),
and contract with private vendors to run food services and golf courses.
The latter idea has some individuals alarmed because it would provide
private vendors the chance to sell alcohol in the four state resort
parks as early as January 2011.
Before anything can be done, private vendors have to submit proposals
to take over the parks existing food services and then obtain
a liquor license. This idea would be similar to agreements parks have
with privately operated marinas.
This is not something the parks would do themselves. We want private
vendors to run food services, said Matt Sawyers, Deputy Secretary
of the Kentucky Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet. Were
interested in looking to see if private operators are interested in
managing dining services and golf courses.
The state has done a lot of budget reducing, said Sawyers. The
purpose of the plan is to create a business model to move the parks
into the 21st century.
This, in turn, would create more revenue in the future.
Currently, the state has 52 state parks and historical
sites that generate $53 million in revenue. This ranks Kentucky as the
third-highest revenue maker in the nation, only surpassed by California
and New York. The problem arises from the fact that this revenue covers
only about two-thirds of operating expenses.
The parks bring in much needed money to the local economies where they
are located. Many are in remote, rural areas that have limited economic
For Carroll County, Butler Park is a large part of the community.
There are a great number of local residents that use it, said
Park Director Tim Hibbard.
The park employs 50 seasonal and 50 full-time employees,
he said. It is these individuals about whom Carroll County Judge-Executive
Harold Tomlinson is concerned.
What happens to the dedicated employees? Will they lose their
jobs? asked Tomlinson. Its not fair to pull the rug
out from under them.
Tomlinson believes there are other approaches that could be taken, rather
than privatizing everything. If these operations are turned over to
private food services and golf courses, this will encourage what he
termed a package arrangement.
And if no private vendors step up to the plate, Then what do you
do? said Tomlinson. His deep personal attachment and concern for
Butler Park and its employees stems from the fact that he managed the
state park for eight years and is very aware of how the park operates
and what type of people it employs. While he was there the park brought
into the area a substantial amount of money, he said.
Kentucky State Parks are very vital to the region, said
Tomlinson. Tourism dollars are one of the biggest industries there
He suggests that the state look at the many day parks it has and consider
cutting back in that area instead of spreading cutbacks only among the
state parks. He doesnt understand why cutbacks apply to park employees
but not to employees in the Frankfort offices.
If they share the pain, their jobs should be cut just as well.
Tomlinson considers the park system a family-oriented venue. Personally,
Ive always opposed the idea of selling alcohol in our state parks.
Were sending a bad message to young people to tell them not to
drink, but then provide it in our parks.
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