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Special to the News
Written by Jodi McDade
On Wednesday, June 15, Gov. Kay Ivey reopened the historic Flagg Mountain Fire Tower to the public for the first time in more than 20 years.
She was joined by State Forester Rick Oates and the Alabama Forestry Commission, the Alabama Trails Foundation, The Conservation Fund, University of Alabama Center for Economic Development, the University of Alabama Office of Archaeological Research, the Alabama Trails Commission, Alabama Hiking Trail Society, Coosa County Commission, Friends of Flagg Mountain, and other partners who have contributed time, energy and funding to make this possible.
The renovation portion of this project had its inception four to five years ago when The Alabama Trails Foundation was tasked to develop a master plan for the development and future improvements of the Pinhoti Trail’s 170 miles in Alabama.
The foundation also partnered with The Alabama Forestry Commission, which owns the Weogufka State Forest where Flagg Mountain is located, to develop a recreation site plan for the historical tower and cabin areas that had been built by the Civilian Conservation Corp in the late 1930s.
Flagg Mountain was studied as a site to introduce Alabama’s mountain culture and the Pinhoti’s future as a hallmark of sustainability for hiking trails.
Flagg Mountain is the southern terminus of the Pinhoti National Recreational Trail that connects to the Benton MacKaye Trail near Blue Ridge, Georgia, and is the last mountain more than 1,000 feet in the Appalachian Mountain Range that runs from Coosa County to Newfoundland, Canada.
The Pinhoti Trail is part of a series of hiking trails that connect Key West, Florida, into Labrador spanning more than 4,800 miles and include the Appalachian Trail.
The mountain was determined to offer scenic, economic, cultural, and historic value, with assets that could support increased visitor use and become a stimulus for local economic growth. The recent partnership investments of more than $1 million for the site plan, approach trail, tower renovation, and ongoing forest management allow greater access to these resources and conserves the historic context of the observation tower.
In addition to the tower renovation, a parking area at the base of the tower has been constructed and connects to the tower area via a half-mile gradual concrete walking path that winds through the natural vegetation of the area.
The path is Americans with Disabilities compliant and offers access to the area for wheelchairs and walkers. Benches are being installed along the path to provide resting areas with views of the surrounding countryside.
Wednesday’s reopening celebration featured activities at the tower, including the release of some native birds by the Alabama Wildlife Center, information on the history of the area, water, snacks, and tents for shade leading up to the main program.
For more information and photos from Wednesday’s grand reopening of the historic fire tower, see next week’s edition.