Beer, wine and liquor sales at Lake Barkley, Buckhorn Lake, Jenny Wiley and General Butler could generate at least $1 million a year, van der Meer said at a press conference.
The parks system plans to ask private vendors to given them proposals for taking over food services at seven of the state resort parks, including the four that might start selling alcohol, although it would be up to the vendor to apply for a liquor license, said Marcheta Sparrow, secretary of the Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet.
John Jordan, administrator at Lake Barkley State Resort Park, said he “has no personal preference” when it comes to selling alcohol by the drink on park premises, “as long as it helps the park’s bottom line.”
Jordan said that the restaurant is one of the few restaurants at Kentucky state parks that still makes money, so he thinks it is unlikely that it will be put in the hands of private vendors.
However, between the request for information and the request for a bid, it could be a year or a year and a half before a private vendor would take over the restaurant, even if it expressed an interest today.
“Since this has just been announced, we don’t know exactly what will follow,” Jordan said.
Jordan said that the park as a whole has lost between about $800,000 and $1 million a year for the past few years, and is currently projected to lose about $600,000 this year, adding that Boots Randolph Golf Course is projected to lose about $160,000 alone.
This and other parts of the state parks plan could help save $6 million for the state parks’ general fund, which is roughly $30 million, according to study, which was conducted by PROS Consulting
The state is also looking at privatizing some of the golf courses at the state parks and also plans to close all of the state’s 17 state resort parks for two days a week from November–March, said Sparrow.
Jordan said Lake Barkley State Resort Park will be closed Monday and Tuesday during those months and added that the park’s 65 employees will have their hours cut, although they will still keep their benefits such as health insurance.
Jordan said that of the 65 employees during the off-season, most will have their hours cut to 30 hours a week, although a few employees such as supervisors might have their hours reduced to 37.5 hours a week.
Trigg County Judge-Executive Stan Humphries said that although improvements to the park are sorely needed and ways to generate additional revenue need to be found, cutting employees’ hours and cutting time that the park is open are not the way to go.
“We need more employees working more hours, not less,” Humphries said. “There were a lot of ideas in that study, and not all of them are necessarily for Lake Barkley.”
While Humphries stressed that additional revenue needs to be raised for the parks, they weren’t meant to be profitable but were designed to increase tourism and to help rural areas.
The report also states that areas like the pavilion, beach, golf course, dining room, kitchen, gift shop, playgrounds, gift shop and administrative building are in good condition, while areas like the RV campsites, boat ramp, fitness center, convention center, lower parking lots and the Little River Lodge and Suites are in poor condition.
“This plan, based on the most comprehensive study ever conducted of the park system, not only is the first step toward getting the system’s financial house in order, but also provides a road map to bring our parks into the 21st Century,” Sparrow said in a press release.
At a meeting of the Cadiz-Trigg County Tourism Commission, Commission Chairman John Bryant asked what would happen with the Lake Barkley Airport. Jordan said it’s run by the Department of Aviation.
“Those kind of partnerships with private industry are going to be” on the increase, Jordan told the tourism commission. He spoke of hiring a private vendor for seasonal help.
Linda Humbert of Grow Trigg asked about a bill to allow alcohol on park premises, but was informed that the bill had died in the Kentucky State Senate.
Although Kentucky parks generated $53 million in revenues – the third highest in the nation, after California and New York – that revenue was about 64 percent of the total operating expenses, said van der Meer.
An online version of the complete report is available at the www.parks.ky.gov. Click on the media tab to find the report.