COLUMN: A welcome addition to the mountain

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Managing Editor 

If the last year of the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that people still love to get out of the house and enjoy nature more than we thought.

Television, cell phones, computers and just sitting around the house is appealing for many, but when forced to live that lifestyle on a daily basis, many started to yearn for outdoor activities.

That led to a more than 50-percent increase in attendance at Oak Mountain State Park over the previous year.

Now, with attendance on the rise, there will be even more park to explore after a massive deal between EBSCO and the Alabama Forever Wild Land Trust.

EBSCO nominated the land to Forever Wild, who recently approved the acquisition in a board meeting.

While deal still hasn’t been finalized from certain aspects, it’s a deal that will transcend Alabama’s largest state park right here in Shelby County and one that our community desperately needed.

Already holding more than 9,000 acres of land, the addition of the 1,611 acres would send the state park to more than 11,000 acres.

It is unknown what will come along with the addition, but it will preserve one of the most popular hiking destinations in the park—King’s Chair. It will also protect Belcher Tract, while other biking and hiking trails will either be added or improved.

The new addition would pull the state park closer to Shelby County 11 near Chelsea High School and back up behind The Narrows neighborhood and over to Lunker Lake near Briarwood Christian School and the park’s Alabama 119 entrance.

That’s a huge expansion that will do wonders for the area.

Shelby County is full of growth from new homes to new businesses, but one of the top selling points remains Oak Mountain State Park.

Its proximity to everyone in the county adds to the quality of living in this area.

From the lakes to the hiking to the biking, OMSP is one of Alabama’s treasures, and preserving even more land so close to such a populated area along U.S. 280 is a priceless opportunity.

As someone who has grown up in the woods camping and hiking, this is hopefully just the beginning of a project that will preserve one of the most beautiful stretches of land in the state.

Thank you EBSCO and Forever Wild for making this happen and seeing the bigger picture outside of dollar signs.