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October 25, 2014

TOP Trails board looks to modify 10-year plan

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Posted: Wednesday, August 13, 2014 9:29 pm | Updated: 9:33 pm, Wed Aug 13, 2014.

The TOP Trails board of directors began the process of modifying their 10 year plan of utilization Tuesday night, and will continue that process during their next meeting, Sept. 2, starting at 6:30 p.m. at the Environmental Center inside the park. The public is encouraged to attend and to bring any thoughts or suggestions for the board to consider.

The existing 10-year plan began in 2008, with the conveyance of the property from the federal government to the board that is overseeing development of the park. Thus, they are in year six of the long-range plan.

As it stands now, there are nine items included under year seven of the long-range plan. Improvement of entrance roads, creation of a dump station for RV waste and off-highway vehicle trail signs were all carried over from year one of the original plan; construction of trails throughout the park is a continuing effort from year two; and development of full-service campgrounds (including RVs) and third-party for-profit concession agreements were moved up from year three. The development of OHV wash stations was a carry-over from year four, and is now complete.

The other items listed under year seven are an additional access road from the entrance to the Environmental Center and construction of sewer lines from the center to the City of Talladega’s sewer system. The board agreed to contact the city about the sewer tap again in the near future.

Few changes were discussed Tuesday for the eighth and ninth years of the plan.

Under year eight, 2015, there are nine items, including two that will be funded with grants recently awarded by the Alabama Department of Economic and Commercial Affairs. These involve the construction of OHV and Motocross training tracks and quad and side-by-side training tracks, according to the plan. Another item listed under this year is to contact the Talladega County Commission to request the transfer of some property adjacent to the park to be annexed in. Board chairman Buster Taylor said he had already discussed this with an attorney.

The balance of the 2015 projects include preparation for rock crawling use and events, repair of gravel and paved roads, designating an area for equestrian trails, and applying for grants for equestrian construction beginning the following year.

Year nine, 2016, was primarily concerned with equestrian development, including development of equestrian trails, development of trail heads and loading areas and construction of corrals and watering areas for horses. These last two items were moved up from year four of the original draft.

Year 10 was where most of Tuesday’s discussion took place, and where most of the significant changes will likely be made.

As presented to the board on Tuesday, the projects for year 10 will include building a lake stocked with fish, building a beach and an equestrian center for shows and competition (moved from years two and four), building a mud bog and lighted pavilions (from year three), building rock climbing walls and converting some of the igloos to overnight lodging, adding OHV misting tunnels and building a national Go Kart Track (from year five), building paintball courses, zip line and motocross building (from year six) and building a swimming pool and children’s water park, skateboard and rollerblade parks and softball, baseball and soccer fields. This last item was originally listed under year nine, and the two before it from year seven.

Nothing was finalized Tuesday, but based on the discussion, it seems the board will likely table the fishing area, the beach, the rock wall, the paintball course and the zip line until some point beyond the initial 10-year plan. There was a great deal of discussion about whether or not conversion of the igloos was feasible. Greater Talladega Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Jason Daves encouraged the board to look at this as an opportunity to capitalize on groups coming in for the Civilian Marksmanship Program, although getting around the fire code was not entirely resolved.

There was also some discussion of converting part of the track for use in “Tough Mudder” and other endurance events, with more information on that to follow in September.

The one outside group that was well represented Tuesday was the equestrians, who made several recommendations. A part of the park that coincides somewhat with the equestrian area is already partially fenced, and it would be fairly simple to set up fencing the rest of the way, they said.

Since building the mud bog will be fairly simple and will likely be very popular, the board seemed to agree to move this item up sooner.

There was also a great deal of discussion about whether or not to rent ATVs at the site. On the one hand, having rental vehicles available would draw more patrons, but having just one of them stuck in, say, the mud bog, would set the park back thousands of dollars. Similar parks in the region had recommended against this.

The board did seem amenable to having ATVs available for guided tours, and to inviting third-party rental groups onto the grounds.

TOP Trails is located at the end of Nimitz Avenue on the far side of the 275 Bypass. The Environmental Center is the first large building you will see after passing the guard shack at the entrance to the park.

Contact Chris Norwood at cnorwood@dailyhome.com.

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