Welcome Centers to Reduce Hours, Maybe Close; Will State Parks Be Next?

(Picture of Marcheta Sparrow and Gov. Steve Beshear from http://commerce.ky.gov/cabinet.)

Here’s an interesting case in contrasting how two different local media outlets report the same story. On our lunch break, we heard a brief story on WFPL about how Kentucky’s Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet is closing Interstate Welcome Centers two days a week to save money, along with some other cuts:

Most state agencies will see four-percent cuts under Governor Beshear’s budget-balancing plan, including the Department of Travel. And that could mean the department will have to reduce hours and close all eight welcome centers two days a week, says Tourism, Arts and Heritage Secretary Marcheta Sparrow.

“I think it will have a fairly significant effect, because they’re the frontline,” says Sparrow. “They’re the people who give information on lodging and restaurants and attractions that people may see and in some cases they give our emergency information and help the traveling public.”

The cuts will also impact funding for the arts, staffing at the Kentucky Heritage Council and operating hours at the Kentucky History Center in Frankfort.

The possibility of budget cuts affecting state parks is briefly touched upon, without a direct quote from Sparrow, at the end of the story:

Secretary Sparrow does not believe the cuts will require closure of any state parks, but says if the situation grows worse, that could change.

We thought we’d see how the story is being reported elsewhere, since any possible closure of state parks would be a pretty big deal.

Over at the good ol’ Courier-Journal, however, the same facts are treated much differently in their story, beginning with the headline Parks predicts closings, layoffs without tax hike:

Some state parks would be closed and about 300 employees would be laid off next year if the state doesn’t get more revenue from the Gov. Steve Beshear’s proposed increase in the cigarette tax, a state official said this morning.

Marcheta Sparrow, secretary of the Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet, said she did not know how many parks might be closed if Beshear’s proposal to increase the cigarette tax from 30 cents to $1 per pack is rejected by lawmakers.

“It could be rather significant,” Sparrow said of the closings. Kentucky has 52 state parks, and 17 of them are resort parks.

Strange that WFPL eschewed reporting on Sparrow’s remarks about the proposed cigarette tax increase entirely. Though perhaps it is stranger still that Sparrow would comment on the proposed increase considering it’s just a proposition, and the legislation isn’t even in session yet.

Additionally, the C-J’s story outlines more cuts:

She said hours at the Berea Artisan Center, Kentucky History Center in Frankfort, and state welcome centers on interstate highways will be reduced. She said there will be reduced funds and technical assistance for artists through the Kentucky Arts Council, and she said there is a “strong” chance that 10 scholarships will be cut from the Governor’s School for the Arts, a summer program for gifted high school students.

UPDATE, 12/17/08: The Courier-Journal is running a story with an even bleaker headline this morning: Budget Crunch May Force Several KY. Parks to Close.

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One Response to “Welcome Centers to Reduce Hours, Maybe Close; Will State Parks Be Next?”

  1. Where do I send my check? One park is enough.

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