New additions and renovations are under way at several Alabama State Parks, which are showcasing the natural assets and quality-of-life advantages of rural counties.
At Lakepoint State Park in Barbour County, recent projects include an archery park and an off-road vehicle course.
Both developments, along with newly-renovated cabins, are gaining popularity among visitors, said Odell Banks, park superintendent at Lakepoint, which is located on Lake Eufaula.
Known as “The Bass Capital of the World,” the 45,000-acre lake attracts thousands of visitors to the park each year. The new projects are aimed at capitalizing on that traffic, and also at attracting a new kind of adventurer.
The off-road vehicle course, which opened earlier this year, is a seven-mile loop that offers a variety of driving experiences, including a rock crawl and other obstacles, Banks said.
“It’s a good place to come learn about your ATVs, so when you do go on trail rides, you’re more comfortable with them,” he said.
For now, visitors must bring their own vehicles, but the park is considering providing rentals. All vehicles on the course must be equipped with roll cages.
Last year, Lakepoint opened an archery park, which features an eight-target adult range of 15 to 50 yards and a four-target youth range of five to 20 yards. It is open for general recreation, as well as competitive tournaments and education programs.
Meanwhile, Lakepoint is working on renovations for its 30 cabins. Ten are complete, and work is under way on another 10, Banks said.
“Most were built in the early ‘70s, so they still had that ‘70s feel to them,” he said. “We took out the carpet and popcorn ceiling and replaced the flooring. It’s a cleaner, fresher look.”
The Alabama State Park network includes 21 state parks that cover 48,000 acres of land and water.
There’s a vast variety across the system as well, from Gulf State Park, on the white-sand shores of the Gulf of Mexico, to the winding foothills of the Appalachians in Cheaha State Park.
In June, state voters approved an $85 million bond issue to fund improvements at parks across the state. Anticipated projects include renovations to campgrounds, cabins and playgrounds, including some work that may involve total replacement of such amenities.
“Over the years, we have established a solid track record in economic development, but not everyone understands that being able to show off a strong quality of life is a key element in the recruitment process,” said Greg Canfield, Secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce.
“Our network of beautiful state parks helps us do that, so these improvements represent a good investment.”
The recent improvements at parks in Alabama’s rural counties give visitors even more reasons to experience the natural beauty of the area, said Brenda Tuck, Rural Development Manager for the Alabama Department of Commerce.
“Rural Alabama is an adventurer’s paradise, which continues to evolve with new attractions,” Tuck said. “The addition of the off-road vehicle course and archery park at Lakepoint build on its already stellar reputation as a go-to spot for bass anglers.”
At another state park in a rural county — Roland Cooper State Park, located on the Alabama River in rural Wilcox County — a new boat docking facility opened last year. The park is home to 55 RV sites, 15 primitive camping sites and more than a dozen cabins and is known for fishing, kayaking, hiking and mountain biking.
The new T-shaped pier, which is 160 feet long and 128 feet wide, gave a significant boost to the park’s dockage for recreational boaters
Governor Kay Ivey, who hails from nearby Camden, was on hand to cut the ribbon for the new pier.
“Outdoor recreation opportunities are abundant in our State Parks system, and it’s gratifying to see a new option that increases access to people right here in my hometown,” she said at the unveiling.
Other recent renovations at Alabama State Parks include those at DeSoto State Park in DeKalb County. A dredging project earlier this year cleaned up silt and debris on the shore of DeSoto Falls and fortified the beach and swimming area.
Elsewhere, other recent projects include a newly renovated campground at Joe Wheeler State Park in Lauderdale County and new cabins and campgrounds at Cathedral Caverns State Park in Jackson County.
(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)
Don’t miss out! Subscribe today to have Alabama’s leading headlines delivered to your inbox.