Georgia Clarifies State Park Police Patrol Plans
Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Deputy Commissioner Homer Bryson said Monday (May 6) the state will continue to provide law enforcement for state parks, despite information that was shared at a meeting in Habersham County last week.
Bryson said park managers did receive an overview of a plan to reorganize the DNR's law enforcement division when they gathered late last month. However, he said there is no plan to eliminate the division or do away with game wardens at state-run parks, accessnorthga.com reported.
In fact, said Bryson, DNR has been reorganizing other divisions within the department, as well.
"The department over the last several years has been streamlining and consolidating our services, and we're reorganizing to consolidate functions within specific divisions so that they can concentrate on their core functions," said Bryson.
"This is not a reduction," he said. "We're not losing any positions – it's basically an internal reorganization within the department."
Government officials in Habersham County expressed concern when they heard last Thursday night from Tallulah Gorge State Park Manager Danny Tatum, who said he had attended the meeting with other park rangers and had understood that DNR law enforcement would be phased out at all state parks within five years.
Officials from Tallulah Falls, as well as Habersham County, were particularly concerned about safety in Tallulah Gorge.
"We realize there's a lot of demands there regarding search and rescue," said Bryson. "This is still DNR's property, we're still responsible for it and we're still committed to providing the same services that we've been providing."
Bryson said Tatum and other rangers got an overview of the plan last month and not full details, and he said that likely was why there was a misunderstanding.
Bryson said another meeting is set for Tuesday, where more details will be unveiled in the transition. He said park supervisors and law enforcement supervisors will meet at the DNR training center.
"[We'll] get more into how that transition is going to occur and to look at the issues and concerns."
Even with another meeting Tuesday, Bryson said there won't be a complete plan in place until sometime this summer. And whatever does happen won't happen immediately, but the plan will be phased in over a matter of years. The Department of Natural Resources Board would have to give final approval to any changes.
The goal, he said, is to make sure that all of the state-run parks continue to operate seamlessly.
"You'll still see the same number of parks employees on those facilities that's been watching over our properties and you'll have an additional layer of law enforcement with local conservation rangers available to assist…our goal is for the public to see no difference."