Watson Mill is a “state park.” It has employees on hand to take reservations from those wanting to camp or enjoy its well-known equestrian paths. Its pavilion can be rented for family reunions and other functions.
Just a few months ago, each of these long-time facts neared artifact status as the state government faced a budget crisis and approved a downgrade for the long-time sunny day getaway. The state Department of Natural Resources changed Watson Mill’s status from a “state park” to an “outdoor recreational facility.” Park employees were laid off. Vandals started showing off their criminal handiwork. Drug busts reinforced leaders’ concerns that the park would become a hub for unsavory activities.
But local citizens and leaders responded loudly. They wanted Watson Mill to remain a point of pride, not a problem. They talked about the economic impact of the park, how the influx of visitors helps local businesses.
Local school children wrote letters to the governor, urging him to “save the park.” Local leaders talked with DNR officials about working together to maintain Watson Mill. The negotiations between the DNR and Madison County commissioners continued for months.
Local and state leaders, along with Watson Mill supporters, stand before the covered bridge at Watson Mill State Park May 10, holding a banner thanking Madison County students for writing letters in support of the park.
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