Parks a part of county’s solution

Published 10:48 pm Thursday, March 26, 2009

Money has long been a problem in Chilton County. This week’s announcement of budget cuts by the county commission in anticipation of a $1.2 million shortfall was just the latest example.

Many will focus on what we don’t have (enough revenue, enough paved roads, enough business, enough entertainment, enough restaurants), and that’s understandable. But it’s also a good idea to think about what we do have (dirt roads—just kidding) and how we can maximize the benefits we receive from those resources.

What we do have is some scenery that can rival anything else the state of Alabama has to offer. Specifically, Higgins Ferry Park and Minooka Park are two of the most attractive aspects of our county, and the recent attendance at these parks proves the point. Higgins Ferry has taken in about $4,000 since the beginning of the year and is booked solid through Memorial Day, according to a story in yesterday’s edition of The Clanton Advertiser. Minooka, meanwhile, has taken in close to the same amount as its sister park.

Those numbers should only go up as both parks see improvements that will make them more desirable to county residents and those that drive from elsewhere. Nine new RV campsites at Higgins Ferry are almost complete, and Minooka is getting new RV sites as well as miles of new trails.

What might be the best thing about this is that these parks are bringing positive exposure to our county. People from surrounding counties and even states are seeing what Chilton County has to offer for recreation. The OHV trails at Minooka were nationally recognized before the park ever opened. Our lakes are so popular that they have been used for major BASS tournaments.

People are also bringing their families to the county for weekends and holidays, and that is translating into additional revenue. They will book hotels, buy meals, gas up and purchase other items here.

The revenue from these parks won’t pay all the commission’s bills anytime soon, but the overall economic impact of these parks might be more than we realize.