FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) – Kentucky State Parks are partnering with local communities to help with deferred maintenance of the parks.
State lawmakers heard an update on refurbishing Kentucky’s State Parks system during a meeting of the Interim Joint Tourism, Small Business and Information Technology committee on Friday.
Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet Secretary Don Parkinson told the panel they appreciate the $18 million in the state budget two years ago, along with an additional $20 million in the two-year budget approved earlier this year.
“We need $240 million for deferred maintenance, but we’re getting a lot of payoff from the $38 million we’re in the process of investing,” he said.
There was good news on occupancy at State Report Park lodges.
“Room sales are up, we’re getting better customer satisfaction scores, we’re moving in the right direction. We feel good about where we are with that,” Parkinson told the committee.
Parks Commissioner Donnie Holland testified the parks employ about 780 people full-time, along with 1,500 seasonal workers, and are a big part of tourism’s economic impact on the state.
“Last year we topped one billion dollars for the first time in economic impact, up from about $840 million three years earlier,” Holland said. “So, as we increase our room sales, we see our economic impact pay for the parks, in essence.”
Holland said they are increasing their partnerships with local communities due to the deferred maintenance costs. The partnerships began in 2010, turning over Ben Hawes State Park to the city of Owensboro, and continued with Constitution Square State Historic Site in Danville two years later.
Other partnerships due to deferred maintenance include:
--Jenny Wiley, where the amphitheater was leased to the city of Prestonsburg, who made needed repairs to re-open the facility and is working on repairs to the closed swimming pool, with plans to re-open next Spring.
--Kentucky Dam Village, where Calvert City took over the airport and made improvements to become an FAA approved airport.
--My Old Kentucky Home, where Nelson County Fiscal Court made repairs to the amphitheater, which the state was forced to close due to structural and electrical issues.
--Lake Malone, where a local charitable foundation paid to demolish the dilapidated dock and replace it, so it is back to serving boaters.
--Kincaid Lake, where the nine-hole golf course was leased to Pendleton County who made needed improvements to keep the course open.
Other future projects are at Levi Jackson, where London officials want to operate and manage the park and the William Whitley House in Lincoln County, where the local historical society will provide additional funding for its continued preservation.
Holland says the resort parks adjust hours during the winter. While Natural Bridge and Jenny Wiley will be open seven days a week, the other 15 resort parks will have reduced days of operation.
“To make you feel a little better, we have a few states that have over a billion dollars in deferred maintenance issues,” Holland said.