Byline: TERRY DICKSON
BRUNSWICK - Bill Giles expertly operated a big commercial lawn mower in front of the rambling antebellum house at Hofwyl-Broadfield Plantation State Historic Site.
When he finished that Wednesday, he would crank up a chain saw and cut up a diseased water oak that had fallen across the park's service road.
In past years, the tasks would have been unusual for someone like Giles, who is superintendent of the historic site. But he'll get more accustomed to the chain saw and the lawn mower seat, because the park maintenance ranger position was lost to budget cuts.
The thing the public will notice, however, is that the park lost days. Formerly open Tuesday through Saturday, the historic site has been cut back to three days a week, Thursday through Saturday, as has Fort Morris State Historic Site, an earthen Revolutionary War site up the coast in Liberty County.
Fort Morris Superintendent Arthur Edgar said his site, which is 7 miles off Interstate 95, is now basically a one-man operation.
"They're calling us satellite sites," he said of the forts' new status. "I don't have a maintenance ranger anymore."
Hofwyl-Broadfield is now combined with Fort King George State Historic Site in Darien and Fort Morris is part of Fort McAllister, a combination state park and historic site at Richmond Hill. Fort King George actually gained a few hours of operations. It will be open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. Previously, the site didn't open until 1 p.m. on Sundays.
Also, all parks employees must take an unpaid day off each month through at least December.
The two coastal historic sites are not alone, said Kim Hatcher, spokeswoman for Georgia State Parks and Historic Sites.
"Twelve of 14 historic sites are cutting back the days they're open," she said.
Most state parks are maintaining the same operating hours, although most have lost personnel and all are cutting back on some expenses for example, such as mowing the grass less often.
"It's true that historic sites don't produce revenue like state parks," which rent camp sites, canoes and boats and have other amenities paid for by fees, Hatcher said.
But two parks, Hart State Park on Lake Hartwell and Bobby Brown State Park on Lake Thurmond, have closed their rental cottages and made their availability seasonal and reduced the hours rangers are at the parks. …