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  • Writer's picturejessica wright

Save Our Parks!

As a politician’s daughter, there is one thing I learned over my lifetime as a bystander in the arena, never get too emotionally invested in politics but stay well enough informed to be educated. Then, you can jump in when and where it’s needed.


My Dad served as both a member of the State of Mississippi House of Representatives and also as the Clerk of the House/Chief of Staff to the Speaker through different legislative stints. As a result, he keeps me abreast of the various matters happening at our State Capitol, and just this week, he made me aware of a presented bill to privatize our state parks.


What’s this matter to you? Well, this IS a camping blog and you’re here reading it. So obviously the outdoors mean soooomething to you, right? (we are going to go with yes). Also, if you’re a Mississippian who loves the outdoors, then this really could have an effect on your ability to utilize the state parks system. If you’re thinking, well I don’t really use the state park system, then hold that thought because in a minute I will give you a list of reasons why you should. And lastly, if you are not a Mississippian or not even CLOSE to being anywhere near Mississippi, this still could apply to you and we could still use your help to save our state parks.

 

Mississippi is currently home to 25 parks spread across the entire state. While it is without question that not all of these parks are equal, the state of Mississippi does have some beautiful areas that offer a lot to their communities and are able to do so at an incredibly low price. Many of our parks have lakes with boating access, swimming pools and splash pads, hiking trails, and even mountain biking trails.


 

Just to demonstrate what some of our awesome state parks have to offer, I created a gallery that lists all of Mississippi's state parks (and their location) and grouped them by some of the various amenities that someone may find attractive.




Find a full list of amenities here: amenities-website.jpg (5100×3586) (mdwfp.com)

 

Many of MS state parks offer day pass entry for low prices and RV full hooks for as little as $20/night. While there are definitely parks that could use some updating or fresh look, it really does pain me to imagine our beautiful park system being handed over to privately owned business for management.


Just an example, when we visit Starkville for MSU game days, we pay upwards of $50-60/night to hook up our RV with very few amenities. Privatizing state parks could drive up the cost and eliminate use for many citizens. Not to mention, if you offer the land to private industries then they could in theory turn and sell portions of the land for profit or to industries like timber.


It’s a gut punch to envision some of the beautiful nature trails my family has enjoyed becoming extinct all because our state legislators cannot make a budget to save our lives. (Really yall..it’s bad). We are the poorest state in the country for a reason (and hallelujah we FINALLY got a much needed state lottery to create revenue) and the good ole boy politics that go down in our Capitol don’t do much to help it. But I digress, I don’t want this to become any more of a political message than it has to be.

 

So again, you may be asking, what can you do to make a difference?


Well for one, visit our state parks. I won’t lie to you and tell you I’ve been everywhere, but it’s on my list :D and truthfully, I do hope to one day bring you a park review on every park in our great state and maybe even one on all 50 of our amazing states (a girl can dream).


Another way you can help: apply for a Mississippi State Park tag. The state of MS is currently accepting pre-orders for a beautiful state park tag. As of publishing this post, there were 243 pre-orders and we need 300 in order to actually get a license plate created. The tag costs $30 and $20 of the proceeds on each tag will go straight to the Mississippi State Park fund.


You can order your tag here: State park Special Tag (mdwfp.com)

 

Lastly, the most significant impact would be felt by letting legislators hear from you. Don’t be afraid to contact your senators and representatives and let them know that you don’t want our state parks to be privatized. You want to keep them accessible to everyone in this great state and out of state visitors alike. Here are some influential people who it would be effective to contact:


Delbert Hosemann – Lt. Gov - Phone: 601-359-3200; email: ltgov@senate.ms.gov

Senator Neil Whaley - Chairman of the Senate Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks Committee: nwhaley@senate.ms.gov

Representative Bill Kinkade - Chairman of the House Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks Committee:


And find your local representative here: Find Your State Legislators - Open States


Also nearly ALL of them either have a facebook or twitter, in fact I reached out to Delbert Hosemann just yesterday via twitter.

 

If you aren’t a MS citizen, first of all thanks for hanging in there this long and YOU CAN STILL HELP! Let our people at the top know that you value state parks and you are interested in visiting one of our lovely options or plan to stop off at one for a place to stay on a cross country journey. Help us make our legislators realize the importance of affordable access to the great outdoors and the amenities the campgrounds provide are important to not just Mississippians but anyone who travels.


Mississippi receives about 1 million visitors to its parks each year. Arkansas state parks attract nearly 8.5 million visitors a year and serve as the state’s largest tourism draw, generating more than $1 billion a year for that state’s economy. Alabama sees nearly 5 million visitors to its parks annually, with an economic impact of about $375 million. (source: Geoff Pender - Mississippi Today)


State parks could be a legitimate tourism draw for Mississippi and make an economic impact if we were willing to invest in them like our neighbors all around us.



 

Okay and last but not least…you’re thinking “okay Jessica that all sounds great but what the heck do I even say?”


Speaking from the heart is always beneficial; however, if that make you uncomfortable, feel free to copy and a paste a form letter such as this one to whomever you wish to contact.


Senator or Representative [insert name here],


I am reaching out today regarding the proposed Senate Bill 2486 affecting the Mississippi State Park system that I believe will result in demise of a resource the citizens of Mississippi cannot afford to lose.


As someone who loves the outdoors and appreciates the state park system, I worry that with privatization of the state parks will result in inflated prices, parks closing, and decreased access to these affordable options for exploring and vacationing within this great state. Without the continued support of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks, we fear the loss of our beloved state parks.


In lieu of the Bill’s proposal to terminate certain park leases, to convey certain park leases to other governmental entities, and to lease other parks to private companies, I encourage you and the other members of the Senate and House Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks Committees to seek out and develop other revenue streams that would be sufficient to support the Mississippi State Parks system. There are numerous examples of possible funding schemes used by nearby states, such as Alabama and Arkansas, to provide the funding necessary to maintain and support a robust state park system.


I encourage you to vote no on Senate Bill 2486 and protect our natural resources so they can be enjoyed for years to come.


Thank you for your time and consideration,

[insert name here]


 

I sincerely hope that this post, if nothing else, made you appreciate the little jewels we have access to through the Mississippi State Park system. No, they aren’t all diamonds. Some are most definitely diamonds in the rough if you know what I am saying. However, some truly are treasures that this state cannot afford to lose.


I really hope that you will feel compelled to take action with me or at the very least follow along to what’s going on down in Jackson.


Our state parks need us and we really could make a difference on this issue. Now purchase your state park tag (right after you purchase your new RV of course) and come have some adventures around the earth, wind, and campfire right here in the Magnolia State with me!






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