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December 11, 2015
Governor awards grants to improve recreation opportunities in Alabama

Buck’s Pocket State Park may soon become a destination for enthusiasts of all-terrain vehicles thanks to a $526,996 grant awarded by Gov. Robert Bentley.

Funds will be used to construct a 15- to 25-mile-long trail for off-highway vehicles at the park located along a section of Sand Mountain that straddles the borders of Jackson, DeKalb and Marshall counties. The grant was part of $1.6 million in Recreation Trail grants awarded by Bentley for 15 projects in Alabama.

Of the total appropriation provided to the state by the Federal Highway Administration, $856,996 will benefit the state’s parks, which suffered budget cuts this year. Another $100,000 was awarded for recreational improvement of public trust land and the remaining funds went to seven municipalities to improve their parks.

“Outdoor recreation is an important aspect of Alabama life,” Bentley said. “This year’s recreational trails projects extend from the mountains in the north to our coastal shores on the gulf. I thank the state and local officials and countless volunteers who are devoted to developing and maintaining recreational opportunities for our residents and visitors.”

Local and regional trail users and organizations will partner with the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, which manages the state’s parks, to develop the Buck’s Pocket trail system to meet the needs of off-highway-vehicle enthusiasts of all skill levels.

During his heyday in the 1940s and 50s, former Alabama Gov. James “Big Jim” Folsom declared Buck’s Pocket an unofficial retreat for losing candidates by suggesting they all congregate there after an election. Buck’s Pocket, which became a state park in 1971, was on a preliminary list to be closed this year before approval of a state budget in September.

Below is a description of the other grants geographically from north to south, awarded by Gov. Bentley:

  • Monte Sano State Park in Huntsville was awarded $80,000 to build a trail shelter and do major trail restoration on the McKay Hollow trail system used by hikers and bikers. The shelter will have bathrooms, changing stations and an outdoor classroom with internet capability for use by trail-safety groups and others. The Birmingham chapter of the Southern Off Road Bicycle Association and other local volunteers have been active in the project.
  • The Land Trust of North Alabama will use a $100,000 grant to acquire 80 additional acres at the Wade Mountain Preserve in north Huntsville and build new trails on the acreage. The current 850-acre preserve includes 10 miles of trail, but there is a demand for more trails for hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding. The new trails will be built by the Huntsville chapter of the Southern Off Road Bicycle Association, the Hazel Green-Toney Saddle Club and Toyota Motor Manufacturing Alabama. The city of Huntsville and the Madison County Commission also have pledged support for the project.
  • Fort Payne was awarded $80,000 to build Citadel Rock Mountain Trail, a multi-use trail that will connect downtown with an existing hiking and biking trail system at DeSoto State Park, Little River Canyon National Park and recently acquired Forever Wild land trust property. The 7,500-foot long, 10-foot-wide trail will scale Lookout Mountain and is expected to be completed in about six months once construction begins. The city is providing $53,000 in local funds for the project.
  • Scottsboro was awarded $100,000 to build a 5,000-foot-long extension along Lake Guntersville of its Goose Pond Colony Resort trail running from Goose Pond Civic Center to Ed Hembree Drive. Scottsboro and the Tennessee Valley Authority are working together to develop the trail to accommodate pedestrians and cyclists and connect a residential area, marina, cottages, golf course and swimming pool. The trail is part of the Black Creek Trail system.
  • Gadsden was awarded $100,000 to build a 6 to 7-mile trail for hikers and bicyclists from Noccalula Falls Park to Black Creek Road and Tuscaloosa Avenue. The project will be a combined effort of the city, the Northeast Alabama Mountain Bicycling Association and other interested organizations. In addition to improving recreation opportunities for residents, the city hopes the trail will attract mountain-biking enthusiasts drawn to the area by trails at Oak Mountain in Birmingham and Coldwater Mountain in Anniston.
  • Rickwood Caverns State Park near Warrior was awarded $35,000 to improve lighting along the .9-mile cavern trail which enables visitors to view underground rock and mineral formations, a pool and blind fish. The park is 380 acres and includes wooded trails, camping, picnic areas, a swimming pool and playground.
  • Alabama State Parks was awarded $65,000 to purchase equipment to build and maintain trails for the northeast Alabama region. Many of the parks’ newer trails have been built by trail-related organizations and volunteers at no expense to the state; however many of those groups lack all the required equipment.
  • The Central Alabama Chapter of the Backcountry Horsemen of America will use a $20,000 grant to construct a metal roof on a trail barn at Oak Mountain State Park. The barn, part of the equestrian campground facility, is considered the trailhead to the park’s 27 miles of trail available for horseback riding. The Backcountry Horsemen of America help maintain the equestrian center at the state park.
  • The Lakeshore Foundation in Birmingham was awarded a $30,000 grant and in cooperation with the Alabama Trail Commission will conduct a pilot program at Oak Mountain State Park to determine trail accessibility for people with physical disabilities and chronic health conditions. The foundation, which encourages people with limitations to lead healthy lives through recreation, will assess trail accessibility, park signage, parking and other factors necessary to enable people with limitations to maneuver at least some trails in state parks. Results in the Oak Mountain assessment will help develop a statewide program.
  • The Auburn-Opelika Tourism Bureau will use a $100,000 grant to build three miles of new trail at Chewacla State Park in Auburn to attract a wider range of trail users to the area. The trail, which has a one-mile elevation change, will be used by cyclists and pedestrians and is designed to add a more challenging trail to the park’s existing 26-mile system. The Central Alabama Mountain Pedalers, which has already built a bicycling trail at the park, is assisting with the trail.
  • Troy will use a $100,000 grant to extend a multi-purpose trail at the Troy Sportsplex. The 3,800-foot-long paved trail will be 10 feet wide and result in a total 1.6-mile-trail at the park. The facility also includes seven ball fields, a miracle league field, three soccer fields, batting cage facility, two playgrounds and a community center with an indoor walking track, basketball courts and indoor and outdoor swimming facilities.
  • Coffeeville in Clarke County will use its $100,000 grant to build a 3,500-foot-long multi-use trail, part of the town’s plan to connect all recreational areas to its Town Hall, library and downtown. The trail will have a paved surface for cyclists and pedestrians while a parallel unpaved section will be reserved for horseback riding.
  • The city of Geneva was awarded a $100,000 grant to improve Robert Fowler Memorial Park which is situated at the confluence of the Pea and Choctawahatchee rivers. The project will include construction of a 3,000-foot-long trail, parking improvements and other amenities with the goal of improving recreational opportunities and enhancing downtown.
  • Gulf Shores was awarded a $100,000 grant to widen the Fort Morgan Road Trail from eight to 10 feet to allow more diverse use. The 5.3-mile-long trail extends from the Peninsula residential golf community to Gulf State Park connecting it with 15 miles of the Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail. The increase in width will accommodate walkers and joggers, and those with bicycles, wheelchairs or strollers.

The Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs is administering the grants. ADECA manages a wide range of grants and programs that support law enforcement, economic development, recreation, energy conservation and water resource management.


Contact Jim Plott or Larry Childers

For more information, visit:  http://www.adeca.alabama.gov/