“The main purpose for the public meetings is to share with our stakeholders our business planning process, the steps that we’re creating in these challenging, financial times on how to be more sustainable and how to provide a more responsible future for the next generation in relation to how state parks operate and how we engage the community,” said Daniel Hill, park manager for Red Top, which oversees the Etowah Indian Mounds. “There will be a portion for a question-and-answer session as well as for public input and that’s one of the primary things that we’re looking for in this because we want to share about where we are starting with our business planning process and then how we can engage the community, how the community can help participate and be able to help support their local parks.
“.... We’re inviting anyone and everyone that has an interest in Red Top to be able to come out because we have a lot of great information. [And] the general public really might not realize a lot of the nuts and bolts that’s associated with managing a state park. This is a great opportunity for them to come and learn a little bit about how we’re doing business and how we’re getting set up so that we can survive and eventually be able to thrive in a variety of different economic climates.”
Along with attending the meetings, people can view the sites’ individual business plans online at www.gastateparks.org/businessplans.
“Our business planning process is called Direction 2015 and the goal for D15 is that by 2015 that the state park system as a whole throughout Georgia will be 75 percent self-sufficient,” Hill said. “One of the benefits to this is we have defined parameters over our entire operations, the cost of doing business, what our roles are for resource protection — cultural resources, historic resources — and then recreational opportunities for the public while still providing public programming and such.
“And what the D15 does is it is a tool that not only gives us all the current vital information that we need on our system but it also provides the start or the foundation for a roadmap into the future because [these] are individual site specific business plans that we’ve spent a considerable amount of time in analyzing every different aspect of our operation, from a variety of angles.”
Echoing Hill’s comments, Ellen Archer, executive director for Cartersville-Bartow County Convention & Visitors Bureau, urges the public to attend the upcoming meetings.
“These are invaluable historic and natural assets in our community, which other than that little percentage of state tax dollars that go into it, that cost the local community nothing,” Archer said. “... Of course, Etowah is of such extreme historic significance. I’ve got postcards dating to the ’20s that have Etowah Mounds in them. It just is literally an internationally recognized archaeological site and people forget that. ... Red Top Mountain remains one of the most visited state parks in the state of Georgia.
“... Once again it’s under the guardianship of a very competent state organization but it’s still on our home turf and I think that the Department of Natural Resources — that very competent state run agency — needs to know that we in Bartow County do care about [these sites’] fates and the programming and the well-being of these amazing resources that are in our county. I really feel strongly about that. Just because it’s on our home turf, I think the residents of Bartow County have an obligation to exercise stewardship over those and we are also Georgians and as citizens of the state, those are very important resources and I think we should not take them for granted.”
Both starting at 7 p.m., Red Top’s meeting will convene in the Lakeside Conference Room at the Park Office — 50 Lodge Road S.E. in Cartersville — and Etowah Indian Mounds’ offering will be held in its museum, 813 Indian Mounds Road S.W. in Cartersville.