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Last Wednesday was ALL about Flagg Mountain, Coosa County, and the wonderful outdoors of Alabama!
There is always energy on the mountain, but June 15, 2022, will stand out as an Energizer Bunny Day with all of the activities that were going on. For those of you who braved the heat to attend the reopening of the Flagg Mountain Tower, thank you! At least we had a breeze and, thanks to the hard work of the Alabama Forestry Commission employees, we had some tents to get under.
There is just SO much to say, but I want to start by telling you about our state forester, Rick Oates. I watched him as he and his crews were setting up tables, putting up tents, making sure both the big and little details were handled. I have always admired a “boss” who rolls up his sleeves and participates with the hard work instead of just standing back and pointing directions.
He has been a guiding force and chief cheerleader for Flagg Mountain since he became our state forester. Our regional forester, Jason Dockery, has also been right there leading the charge for the Weogufka State Forest and Flagg Mountain. AND, we have the BEST local rangers in Brad Dunham and our newest addition of Braxton Lashley!
There are others, but these are the ones I have come to know the best. If you see a Forest Commission employee anywhere in the state, please shake their hand and thank them for what they do!
Cindy Ragland with Alabama Trails Foundation has been our other guiding force by working on the plans for the Pinhoti Trail and improvements to Flagg Mountain. As a former National Park Service employee, she knows the ins and outs of how to get things done and who to call for the big bucks that are needed! The Trails Foundation is the funding source for the Alabama Trails Commission who oversees all the different types of trails in Alabama – and there are many!
We are blessed that God put Flagg Mountain right here in Coosa County! Alabama is already well known for the wonderful diversity of natural resources we have from the beautiful Gulf Coast beaches to the rivers, waterfalls, mountains, and forests all the way to the Tennessee Valley in the north part of our state.
People who have come here to hike our trails have been so surprised with the variety of things there are to see and do. And, tourism is one of the main industries in Alabama, bringing in almost $20 billion in 2021 – even with the slow down from COVID-19. But the lockdown pushed people to get outside and explore!
It’s hard for us in Coosa County to really understand the benefits of tourism because we don’t have the business infrastructure that can capitalize on it. But, we have the resources with not only Flagg Mountain and the Pinhoti Trail, but also the wonderful lakes and rivers we have.
There are fishing tournaments that bring in thousands of people each year alone, but the revenue goes outside of Coosa County because of no lodging and few food establishments. This can all change if we embrace the improvements being planned for Flagg.
The next project in the pike is bringing water to the mountain – cabins and tower – so that a planned bathhouse can be constructed. The engineering plans are getting close to completion, and at least half of the funding has already been secured.
Stewartville Water Authority is working hard on this, and the extension of the water service along Lay Dam Road can be a door opener for some development in the western side of our county. I personally have dreams of a gas station and maybe a Dollar General at the County Road 55/56 intersection to provide for the Marble Valley, Hidden Valley and Weogufka areas. Maybe even a restaurant along Lay Dam Road and an RV park to bring more campers to the area. The tax dollars these types of businesses can bring to Coosa County would be a huge benefit.
The other new project that was announced at the reopening was an office for the Alabama Forestry Commission and a Welcome Center for Flagg Mountain. Plus, Gov. Kay Ivey called for all the organizations involved with the Flagg Mountain/Pinhoti Trail to join together to submit ideas and plans to her for further improvements that will make the Pinhoti Trail THE premier hiking trail in Alabama! We know we will have her support for the next four years, so let’s get it done!
Something else you need to understand is the depth of the people attending the Reopening Ceremony. With more than 200 people in attendance, we had four of our five Coosa County commissioners (Bertha McElrath had a prior commitment.); Probate Judge Richard Dean; County Administrator Amy Gilliland; Sheriff Michael Howell; EMA Director Sheldon Hutcherson; Rockford Mayor Scott White; Goodwater Police Chief Cory Shaw; Goodwater Fire Chief Elmore Unbehant; Kellyton Fire Chief Jerry Sewell; State Sen. Clyde Chambliss; State Rep. Ed Oliver; former State Rep. and now Chief of Staff for the Speaker of the House Mark Tuggle; the director of State Tourism; many members of the Governors Cabinet; the Board of Directors of the Alabama Forestry Commission; representatives of the Pinhoti Trail Alliance; representatives of the Alabama Hiking Trail Society; retired State Forester Bruce Springer; Mike Leonard and (Coosa County’s own) Robert Shaw from the Conservation Fund; members of the John Greene family; and many, many more I just can’t remember. If I left you out, it was not intentional, and I hope you will please excuse my memory!
To see the video of the ceremony, please visit the Friends of Flagg Facebook page, the Alabama Forestry Commission website, or the Alabama Trails Foundation website.
There is not room for me to say all I want to say about this event and about our Flagg Mountain. I’m already way over my general lengthy limit, but I hope Christa will have room to include extra coverage of Coosa County’s day in the limelight! We deserve it, and I hope all of you will find your way to Flagg Mountain soon. I haven’t even touched on the wonderful walkway to the tower or the view from the tower – guess I’ll have topics for the next couple of weeks!