Coming to Minooka: RVs, horses

Published 9:13 pm Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Nearly a year after Minooka Park first opened to the public, the park remains very much a work in progress.

Minooka has just broken ground on a new RV campground as well as a trail system for horseback riding. Both projects are being funded through a federal off-highway vehicle (OHV) grant, of which $194,000 remains.

“There’s a lot more interest in that park right now for things other than just ATV trails,” Chilton County Commissioner Allen Caton said.

The park is enlisting the help of county employees between their regular jobs to construct the RV campsites which, once complete, will offer running water, electricity, and a sanitary dump station.

Meanwhile, Park Manager Gerald Arrington and Ranger Mark Alexander are busy rough-cutting trails for horseback riding. They have completed 2 miles and hope to have carved 10 miles by this spring. Volunteers will assist with dressing up the trails, cutting overhead limbs and clearing debris.

Minooka Park already offers more than 12 miles of trails for ATV riding, dirt bike riding, and hiking. Another 12 miles of single-track trails are for more experienced dirt bike riders.

“We’ve got to make this grant money last,” Arrington said. “We’ve got to stretch it as far as we can.”

The park is already becoming a popular site for weddings, family reunions, church picnics and scouting events. This is where the problem comes in — many turn elsewhere when they see the nearly 2-mile dirt road that leads to the park’s entrance.

“We get complaints from guests about the condition of the road, especially after a rain,” Arrington explained. “It gets real slippery and muddy.”

And as the park’s new features become available to the public, RVs and vehicles towing large trailers will be using that road to get to the park.

“I think it would hurt the success of our RV campground if travel trailers and motor homes are having to travel that dirt road,” Arrington said.

The park entrance road — marked as County Road 146 — could improve business for the park if it was paved, park officials and some county commissioners say.

Much of the work is already done. The road is already based and wide enough to be paved with tar and gravel, County Engineer Tony Wearren said.

“In my opinion, that’s the only road that’s going to pay for itself with increased traffic to the park,” Wearren said.

Funding to pave the road would likely have to come out of either bond money or the Road Department’s general operating fund.

The Road Department, however, already has other projects on tap that are dependent upon a windfall of funds.