I went on a backpacking adventure recently at Oak Mountain State Park in Shelby County. I have not been on a trail with a heavy pack on my back in years. I learned that some of my equipment collected in the 80s and 90s is outdated. My stove was too heavy and my sleeping bag too bulky. But, I learned something else while I was walking those park miles. I learned Oak Mountain State Park has “friends.”
With help from Friends of Oak Mountain State Park, the park is well maintained. Miles of roads are free of trash. Yes, the park is owned by the State of Alabama, but still subject to budget cuts regularly. Occasionally, I picked up an empty plastic water bottle or candy wrapper on the trail discarded by a careless hiker or child knowing no better. Some trees were down, but many cut up and some even carried away. There were trail bridges with rustic looking signs nearby indicating they were built and donated by a Boy Scout troop. Several biking clubs shared their knowledge and experience to build and maintain bike trails that attract bikers from all over the Southeast. The park reflects attention invested over and beyond paid park management.
I went to Palisades Park recently to hike some trails. I often show off Palisades Park to visitors. The attraction of the park ranks up there with our covered bridges and Rickwood Caverns for entertainment in nature. The park was generally clean and had some pretty blooming flowers planted in conspicuous locations. The most memorable trail hiked that afternoon was the Trail of Trees. Memorable, because it was obviously in need of extensive repair. I departed Palisades that day with questions… and ideas.
I returned to Palisades later in the week for some investigation. As luck would have it, not only did I meet the manager of the park, but also the volunteer board of directors president. We had great conversation about the park’s past and present life. I told them the park’s bluff side looks great, but the trails need attention. They already knew that. I shared my experience at Oak Mountain while learning the management challenges at Palisades are much different. Palisades lacks the funding and labor.
Palisades Park is in Blount County tourism brochures and films. Blount County Parks and Recreation/Blount County Commission needs help maintaining this jewel in our county’s landscape. Additional county funding must not be easy to find, but I feel there are volunteers that have time to lend. Palisades Park needs more “friends.”
Think about this. The covered bridges have friends that pick up trash regularly so visitors have a nice visual experience. The Locust Fork River has Friends of the Locust Fork River. There are Friends of the Oneonta Library and Friends of Rickwood Caverns. Lots of people and organizations visit/use Palisades Park. Blount County’s jewel needs a Friends of Palisades Park. Our crown jewel can use your help.