Lake Lurleen State Park in Coker officially opened its newest trail on Thursday, named the J.W. “Bill” McFarland Sr. Memorial Trail to honor the late Tuscaloosa businessman, public servant and philanthropist.
McFarland’s family donated funds to the Alabama State Parks Foundation for the construction of the half-mile trail, which connects to the 9-mile Tashka Trail, the park’s longest. The park now has eight trails open for hiking and biking, totaling just over 27 miles.
“The Alabama State Parks Division is honored that Mr. McFarland’s family wanted to support Lake Lurleen State Park and the Alabama State Parks Foundation with this gift,” said Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Commissioner Chris Blankenship. “‘Partners Pay the Way’ is more than a slogan for our parks. We are thrilled that this family saw Lake Lurleen State Park as a fitting place to honor their father, husband and brother.”
McFarland’s brother and longtime business partner, Ward, represented his family at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the trail. “My brother loved Lake Lurleen State Park and we are happy that his name will forever be attached to this trail where so many visitors will be able to enjoy the outdoors,” he said.
Billy McFarland Jr. said, “We are glad the Alabama State Parks Foundation is now working with the State Parks Division to help improve all of our parks. We certainly encourage others who have made special memories with their families in the parks to consider becoming a supporter through the Foundation.”
J.W. “Bill” McFarland Sr. was born in Tuscaloosa, where he attended school and graduated with honors from the University of Alabama in commerce and business administration. In 1973, he assumed the position of vice president of Ward McFarland Inc., a real estate development and investment firm founded by his father, the Hon. Ward Wharton McFarland. In 1986, he was the Republican nominee for the United States House of Representatives from District 7.
In 1987, Gov. Guy Hunt named him to his cabinet as Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Mental Health. During his two years of service, McFarland successfully lobbied for the passage of a $100 million bond issue – the largest mental health bond issue ever in the state – that enabled countless mental health facilities across the state to renovate and improve their level of care.
He was a founding member of the Southern High-Speed Rail Commission, appointed by six Alabama governors, both Republican and Democrat, to the then three-state body. McFarland was instrumental in inaugurating the Gulf Coast Limited Amtrak Service that served Alabama and for working to maintain rail service in Tuscaloosa.
McFarland was an officer in the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary, was president of Volunteers of America of Alabama and served on the Shelton State Foundation, Friends of Bryce Hospital and numerous other civic and community organizations.
Design and construction of the trail was done by members of the West Alabama Mountain Bike Association, Alabama State Parks North Region Trails Coordinator, Northwest District Superintendent Chad Davis and the staff of Lake Lurleen State Park. WAMBA has built and maintains all the trails in the park.
(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)