Improved Lakepoint part of effort to get kids outdoors

Published 3:01 pm Thursday, August 6, 2009

After 21 months and $12 million in expenditures, the “new” Lakepoint Resort and State Park is open for business. Overlooking Lake Eufaula, one of the best-known fishing lakes in the nation, Lakepoint has maintained its rustic charm while modernizing all the amenities and facilities.

“Basically, it was a complete renovation of the facility inside and out,” said Mark Easterwood, Director of the State Parks Division of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. “The main lodge, everything in the interior was torn out and we went back in with new floors and new walls. There’s a little different design and layouts in the meeting rooms. All the hotel rooms pretty much stayed the same layout, but we put in all new walls and bathrooms with tile and new fixtures, new carpet and different paint.

“I think one thing that’s going to give it a whole new look is we put a whole new roof on it, a gable-type roof. It had a flat roof before and this is going to make an impression when people drive in and see the new roof and the new siding, compared to what it was. It’s going to be a ‘wow’ factor for them when they drive in the gate and see it. The porte-cochere, what you drive under to go inside to register, was added on and extended. There’s a steep roof on it, which is impressive.”

In place of the old swimming pool is an expansive deck that will be perfect for many different social activities.

“Once they see it, where the swimming pool was, we took the swimming pool out and built a big deck area with a trellis structure,” Easterwood said. “I think people are really going to love that, for weddings or anything they want to do outside. We’ve got several weddings planned already.”

Longtime park superintendent Jim Royal said the renovation project has maintained the high ceilings and rustic beams in the lodge while thoroughly updating the facility.

“There’s going to a whole new outlook on Lakepoint,” Royal said. “The lodge has been changed quite a bit. There’s a beautiful lodge area. The lobby area has really been changed. It’s spacious and impressive with natural slate floors. The banquet rooms and meeting rooms have been increased. The ballroom will hold 450. We now have nine meeting rooms for conventions and functions. Three of the meeting rooms will hold from 150 to 200 people and then we have smaller board rooms and breakout rooms.

“The dining room has been expanded to the water’s edge. The dining room will now hold 235 people, and we have all new kitchen facilities. We have a whole new menu and promise to be competitive on food prices.”

Rates for the 102 rooms will range from the $80s to low $100s. Six executive suites are included in the total. All new furnishings have been installed throughout the facility.

One aspect of the renovation that makes Lakepoint unique is the different approach taken to decorate the walls in the lodge and the rooms.

“We think the art work is something special,” Royal said. “Instead of some generic art, we got photographer Todd Adams to come out here and take local pictures on the lake. He shot pictures of real things in and around the park, as well as Eufaula. Those will be in all the hotel rooms and around the lodge. It’s something we thought that would give the local people some interest.”

Easterwood said when Royal approached him with the art idea, he quickly saw an opportunity to promote Alabama’s wonderful outdoors.

“The photos are great conversation pieces,” Easterwood said. “Plus it shows our guests a lot of what there is to see in the area. When they see the picture, you can tell them that’s across the lake, that’s in the park or in town. If it’s something they find interesting, then we can tell them they can go look at it in person and we’ll tell you how to get there.

“Jim got a few demos and brought them for me to look at it. I thought they were very interesting, and we decided to go the whole route instead of just having generic pictures or artwork. This is something unusual that we haven’t done before, but I think it’s going to turn out to be something very popular.”

Royal said Lakepoint attracts visitors from all over the Southeast, especially Georgia and Florida, and a significant flock of snowbirds from up north visit during the winter.

“This is the nicest facility between Atlanta to Destin,” Royal said. “And there’s plenty to do when you come here to meet. You’ve got fishing. You’ve got golf. You’ve got shopping. The fishing has really been good this year. The big fish are biting. Our bass tournaments from March to June are very good, always have been. We’ve also got crappie, bream and catfish.

“Eufaula is a unique city. The old antebellum homes are there. We have the Pilgrimage in the spring and they have tours year-round.”

Not only does Lakepoint have a renovated lodge, hotel and banquet facilities, there are also 29 cabins in the park and 10 new upscale cottages sit alongside the lakeshore.

“What we’re trying to do at Lakepoint is bring it together,” Royal said. “You’re within walking distance of the marina and the marina grill to the hotel, the boat docks to the hotel, the cabins to the hotel. The swimming pool is planned to be sitting right in the middle of that. We’ve also done renovations in the campground. We’ve got 288 campsites, some right on the lake’s edge.

“Plus we’ve got an 18-hole championship golf course. And we’ve got some of the most competitive packages you can imagine. The package will include room, breakfast, dinner and golf. It’s available to individuals, couples or groups.”

Easterwood said the National Association of State Parks Directors has adopted a program to help promote the outdoors to the younger generations.

“The program is designed to get kids outside for health reasons, No. 1, and to learn about our natural resources,” Easterwood said. “So many of our kids are addicted to video games and stay inside. It is nationally recognized this causes health problems in younger and younger children.

“Bream fishing, when you have a good bream population like here at Eufaula, you can take a kid and he’s got action right away. That’s what you want. It’s not like bass fishing where you have to have patience. You can bring your family down and go bream fishing. We’ve got rental boats here. We’ve got jon boats and pontoon boats you can fish on. It’s a great deal to bring your family and get the kids excited about the outdoors and learn more about the natural resources of the state. This gets them involved in doing things outdoors, as our parents did with us. That’s an important aspect we’re pushing in all our state parks, as well as nationwide. Once they fall in love with what we have, they’ll bring their kids later on.”

Eufaula residents couldn’t be happier with the resort’s reopening, especially those connected with the lake.

Jackie Thompson, one of the premier fishing guides on Eufaula, said the charter fishing industry around the lake has missed Lakepoint much more than they could have imagined.

“This lodge is the lifeblood of the guide and outdoors business in this town,” said Thompson, who has fished the 45,000-acre lake since its impoundment in 1962. “I’ve got guides who work with me when we get company trips and they bring in people to entertain. They usually stay right here at the lodge. Since this lodge has been closed, we really realize how much this lodge means to us – not only to us, but the people who like to come to this lake to go fishing. So it’s tremendous for us and this community.

“We haven’t had but one corporate trip since the lodge has been closed. It goes hand and glove. We work with Jim Royal and work up packages where they might come down and fish one day and play golf the next.”

Thompson said the convenience Lakepoint offers is unparalleled.

“The thing is I can pick the fishermen up right at their door, go to the boat ramp and then bring them right back to their door in the afternoon,” he said. “If they want to keep some fish, they’ve got a fish-cleaning area at the marina. They can do the whole thing and never leave the park or crank their automobile if they don’t want to.”