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Photo by Erica Techo.
A joint project between Shelby County and Alabama State Parks is taking place at Oak Mountain State Park. A new sidewalk from the parking lot to a newly re-established beach is one aspect of the project.
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Photo by Erica Techo.
Establishing more destinations toward the back of the park not only will help spread out crowds, but it can also introduce visitors to parts of the park they have not explored, Shelby County Chief Development Officer Chad Scroggins said.
Visitors to Oak Mountain State Park will have a few more amenities to look forward to as the weather warms up.
As part of a joint venture between Shelby County and the Alabama State Parks Division, the back end of Oak Mountain State Park is getting spruced up. Work to re-establish a beach at Beaver Lake as well as build new piers, improve the boat parking area and construct new sidewalks started this fall, and the projects are set to wrap up in late spring, said Shelby County Chief Development Officer Chad Scroggins.
Areas of improvement were determined as part of a master plan assessment that took place a few years ago, Scroggins said, and these projects were selected to help give visitors more options at the park.
The front of Oak Mountain State Park sees a lot of traffic, Scroggins said, and this will help spread crowds out a bit.
“In the summertime, [the front area] can get really, really crowded. It’s where most folks go,” he said. “Whether it’s the beach that’s there, or the boat and kayak rentals or the Alabama Wildlife Center.”
The beach is also located right next to the park’s back entrance, which Park Director Kelly Ezell said will help alleviate the lines at the front gate.
“I think it will create a draw to a different area of the park,” Ezell said. “Our current beach area and day use area are very crowded, so this will give some other options for people looking for a beach or possibly an area to grill out.”
In the 1970s and ’80s, there was a beach at the park’s back two lakes, Scroggins said, but it has grown over in the past several years. To reestablish it, they drained the lake by about eight feet, removed structures in the area and installed sidewalks from the parking lot down to the beach.
“It’s just going to be a lovely area,” Ezell said. “It’s going to be very nice, and having a fishing pier and a swimming pier, those will be other great amenities for our guests.”
Off that beach, there will be a swimming pier and two fishing piers, along with an established fishing habitat in the lake. The fishing habitat will be built using more than 200 Christmas trees that were recycled this holiday season, Scroggins said.
A second beach will also be reestablished by the park’s campgrounds, which Scroggins said helps add another amenity to that area of the park.
“I think it just provides [visitors] more opportunities to get out,” he said. “There’s just more things to do. Bank fishing has been kind of limited at the park, … so to have these fishing piers, just to have multiple options of entertainment is the goal.”
While the beach by the campgrounds was already in existence, Ezell said the county is working to make it “more usable and accessible.” There will also be a fishing pier at that beach.
Establishing more destinations toward the back of the park not only will help spread out crowds, but it can also introduce visitors to parts of the park they have not explored, Scroggins said.
They also hope to be able to accommodate more events, he said, especially on high-volume days during the summer.
“We saw that there was some more demand for this back section, so now the park could really have two 5K trail runs that don’t even have to overlap,” Scroggins said.
The updates could be completed as soon as March, Ezell said, just in time for spring break and the warmer weather.
Ezell said she hopes the community enjoys the updates, and she hopes they know that anyone who supported Amendment 2 on November’s ballot helped support this project.
“I hope it’s positive, and I think it will be,” Ezell said of the public’s reaction. “I would like to say that Amendment 2 has made this kind of thing possible. …We appreciate the legislators who brought that amendment to the ballot, and to the folks who voted to make that amendment, to bring that to where we can keep our funds.”
Amendment 2 was to prohibit reallocating state park funds for other uses and to allow the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources to contract with non-state entities for the operation and maintenance of land or facilities in the state park system. It passed with more than 1.4 million votes, gaining 79.7 percent support. Allowing state parks to keep the funds they take in, Ezell said, was integral for this project.
“Amendment 2 made this kind of thing possible,” Ezell said. “I really want people to know that [by] voting for that, we couldn’t commit to this project until we knew that Amendment 2 had passed.”
OMSP plans to hold a grand opening for the new amenities as soon as they are open. Other upcoming projects at the park include a family-friendly bike trail from Lunker Lake to the North Trail Head and new mews at the Alabama Wildlife Center, both for the Eurasian eagle owl and a bald eagle that is coming to the wildlife center. The new bike trail, Ezell said, will help alleviate the packed parking OMSP has at the start of the North Trail Head.
“We’re expecting great things this year at Oak Mountain State Park,” Ezell said.