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More parks would serve people of Georgia well

By Dan Pool
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    If you’ve not made summer travel plans, I would like to be able to recommend many of the great Ga. State Parks.
    They always seem to be clean, safe and well-operated. At more than 50 locations around the Peach state, you can find whatever accommodations you desire – from tent camping by a lake to RV hookups to coastal getaways that let you see the other side of Georgia.
    My personal favorite is tent camping anywhere in north Georgia and not just because it’s too hard to back an RV into a camp site. For me and my family, tent camping is real camping.
    There is no better way to disrupt the modern cycle of constant cell-phone, Facebook and endless news feeds than to go sleep outside, hopefully WITHOUT cell service.
    But, to be practical, at most Georgia parks, there are plenty of plug-ins and enough service to stream a movie. And some of the RV’ers manage elaborate displays of lights, big screen televisions and gourmet kitchens.
    Ga. parks offer great chances to have a vacation close by for low cost and with low stress – throw a pair of shorts and flip-flops, maybe hiking boots and a fishing rod in a bag and you’re all set. The parks do charge a reasonable amount, but by the time you pack your own food and have mostly free entertainment with trails and lakes, it’s still a budget-friendly trip -- even for cottages.
    In north Georgia, there are the classic parks like Vogel and Unicoi nearby and a little bit of drive will get you to Cloudland Canyon – where you can try Frisbee golf in addition to exploring some really cool trails.
    As I said in the beginning, I would like to advise you to try the parks, but as  caution, it’s not that simple – by this time in the year, you’d be lucky (though not impossible) to find an open spot at the best sites. Really nearby are Morganton Point on Lake Blue Ridge or Woodring on Carters (which may not technically be state parks but are still operated under some auspices of government) and they stay booked up often – at least the lakeside spots and on weekends.
    Similarly on the other side of the state, Cumberland Island has phenomenal resources and camping for a more adventurous vacation, but you need to book months in advance there.
    The idea that you could hop into the car with kids on a Friday and drive to a state park and find a spot is not practical, though again not impossible. There are many first come, first serve spots but that is a risky proposition to go to so much loading and driving to find everything full. You better have a backup plan if you go during summer holidays.
    Needless to say, Ga. State Parks, as well as the other recreation areas operated by the federal park services and other agencies, are popular. It’s something government is doing well, but also on a limited basis.
    We encourage our state lawmakers to look at the parks and see that they are operated profitably, but also to expand their offerings. If they can cover costs by renting campsites and offering activities, why not offer more? There is no reason not to expand an area of government that people actually like.
    Conservatives ought to take note that parks should be funded by user fees, not taxes. Those who want to fish, camp, hike and boat pay the cost.
    As a big added advantage to all people if the overnight stays can keep the basic amenities like trails open for free (or with a minimal parking fee), all Georgians benefit by being able to get outside and enjoy the great natural resources of this state.
    And, if you are looking for something to do this summer for a family that is healthy, stress free and affordable see what the parks do offer and is available.