TALLADEGA — A local group of off-road vehicle advocates has plans for an ambitious project its members believe can generate millions in revenue and make northeast Alabama a hotspot for off-road vehicle activity.
Danny Hubbard, director of public relations for the Munford-based Cheaha Trail Riders, has been working for five years on making his dream park a reality. Mountain bike trails, an equestrian and livestock center, a campground, rock-climbing walls, skate parks and ball fields are all part of his ambitious plan to make a spot of land in Talladega County a national tourist destination.
And of course, it will include off-road vehicle trails.
“It’ll be one of the most unique parks in the United States,” Hubbard said about Top Trails, a project the Cheaha Trail Riders along with the cities of Lincoln and Talladega have been planning for the last five years.
Right now, the facility, which is a 15-minute drive from Interstate 20, doesn’t look like much, but Hubbard thinks the 2,800 acres of land in Talladega that used to serve as a World War II powder storage facility can be transformed into that one-of-a-kind multi-use park. Just north of the empty, run-down igloos that used to belong to the Coosa River Storage Annex, about 30 miles of trails already exist for off-road riders. Hubbard said he gets calls from people all over the country looking for the site to spend the weekend. His hope is that in a few years, those couple hundred riders will turn into a couple thousand weekly visitors to the park.
Once the park is mature, Hubbard said, the estimated impact will be $20 million to $30 million annually. “It’s a unique park, and we think it can bring in money. That’s the whole idea.”
The property is currently co-owned by the cities of Talladega and Lincoln, which, after 10 years, would evenly split profits from the park. But city officials think there’s money to gain from Top Trails long before then.
“We think it’s going to be a real asset to our community,” said Lincoln Mayor Lew Watson. “In terms of business and tourism, there’s a lot of potential there.”
Mack Ferguson, board member with the Public Parks Authority of the cities of Lincoln and Talladega, said Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia have the highest concentration of off-road vehicle owners in the country. The Top Trails park would cater specifically to that niche of enthusiasts.
“It’s evident there’s a need and we’re going to supply that need,” Ferguson said. “It’s an incredible market.”
Hubbard said he hopes the project can break ground in January, and estimates it’ll take anywhere from 10 to 15 years to complete, assuming they can get money to complete the park.
“We’ve gotten close to $900,000 in grants from the state of Alabama,” Ferguson said. “We’ve also been able to clear 300 acres of timber (which cost) in excess of $3,000.”
And although the park is just in its infancy, Hubbard said, enthusiasm has been through the roof.
“We’ve been received with open arms,” he said of recreation-oriented groups he's spoken to. “People have been very open-minded. We’re trying to bring in people from all over the U.S., and I think people can see that.”
Besides the boost for the surrounding area, Hubbard believes the park will create more than 100 jobs when completed, and many more during the construction phases.
The Trail Riders' efforts have garnered national recognition in recent months. In September, the group, a 501(c) nonprofit organization, received the Club of the Year Award from the National Off-Highway Vehicle Conservation Council. That award was followed in November by Club of the Year designation from the American Motorcyclist Association.
Star staff writer Brian Anderson: 256-235-3546