First Time Voter Looks Forward to Protecting State Parks

Editor’s Note: Sophie Herrington is a senior at Murphy High School in Mobile.

Sophie Herrington - Courtesy Elizabeth Doyle Photography.jpg

Sophie Herrington – Courtesy Elizabeth Doyle Photography

As a first time voter, I am so excited to head to the polls this year. I’m eager to take advantage of our democracy and have a say in what happens to my country. My dad ran for political office when I was in second grade, and my mom works for Conservation Alabama, so the importance of voting has been stressed to me my whole life. I assumed this would prepare me to hit the polls; however, I didn’t realize November’s ballot went farther than voting for President and Vice President until recently. To my surprise, there are more ballot initiatives like local and statewide amendments that are voted on in addition to the presidential election. Not only am I affecting what happens in our country, I can also impact what happens right here in Alabama. Amendment 2, which will secure funding for our state parks, can improve our communities by protecting areas right here at home.

Amendment 2 is designed to preserve our state parks and keep funding earned within the park system from going to fund other areas of government. Over the past five years, more than $15 million has been transferred from the state parks to the state’s General Fund. This has caused five Alabama parks to close and many others to reduce service hours. As someone who spent the average childhood day climbing trees or bike riding in the park, this was something I was devastated to hear. Accessibility to parks gives children so many more opportunities to appreciate nature, stay healthy and have fun.

I was surprised to learn our state parks are mostly self-funded. User fees contribute more than 80% of their budget. Right now this money earned by the parks is easily transferred to other departments. Amendment 2 would keep that money where it belongs, in our state parks. I have always taken pride in the beauty of our state parks, like Gulf State Park – right here in coastal Alabama, allowing people from all over the chance to spend time on the beaches I’ve grown up enjoying. Sadly, this transfer of funding is depreciating their value. Voting yes for Amendment 2 will allow our parks, beachfronts, camping and hunting sites to remain open. It will allow you to take advantage of our state parks and continue hiking, hunting and fishing locally.

If you’re a first time voter like me, get educated on the ballot initiatives you can vote on. The ballot goes farther than voting for President. The Secretary of State’s website has a sample ballot, so you can review your options before you go to the polls. When I look back on my first election, I want to know that each vote I cast mattered. I want to know that I did everything I could. I want to know that I helped preserve something important to me. So help me make a difference in my community by voting yes for Amendment 2.

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