Most people in Blount County realize the value the Locust Fork River represents to the people and communities within its watershed. Not only is it a sport fishing mecca, favorite swimming hole, and a whitewater adventure, but schools use the river as an outdoor classroom to teach earth and water related sciences to students.
Some of our community leaders understand the Locust Fork River and its tributaries are a huge attraction to our county just like Palisades Park, Rickwood Caverns, Spring Valley Beach, etc. Just recently, some municipal governments even adopted resolutions that recognize the value of the Locust Fork River to our communities.
Blount County has many attractions that should make our county a destination rather than just a drive-through on the way to somewhere else. We need to keep letting people know Blount County is awesome. For instance, on Ala 79 in Cleveland there is an inconspicuous sign informing the traveler of a “Covered Bridge.” I spoke to a visitor some months ago while on trash patrol at the Swann Covered Bridge. He said he sees the sign every week when he travels to Huntsville, but never investigated the meaning until the day I saw him. I told him it was part of our covered bridge trail that includes two more covered bridges. As he walked back to his car, he said “I’ll be back with my wife to travel the trail. Say, where’s a good place to eat lunch?” He was a traveling visitor that day, but also a tourist in the making.
A tourist dollar left in our county is easy money for our economy. Our beautiful county in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains has what it takes to attract tourists. ALL OF US should market Blount County every chance we get as a “destination.” With every opportunity, show any visitor an enjoyable experience and a good reason to return.
The townships of Blountsville and Oneonta recently created resolutions recognizing the Locust Fork as “not only a vital natural resource and wildlife refuge, but also an educational, tourism, and family center in our community.” This was in response to the Alabama Department of Environmental Management’s Triennial Review of Alabama’s Water Quality Standards. Right now, ADEM only sees the Locust Fork as supporting fish and wildlife, but it is much more than that. It also supports swimming and other full-body contact sports and should be designated as such. We want the public to know that!
The leaders of Blountsville and Oneonta get it. Oneonta adopted their resolution of commitment to the Locust Fork. Blountsville is still working on theirs. We need to applaud their leadership. Other townships know what Blount County has to offer its people and tourists. I hope they are working on their resolutions of commitment as well. Tourist dollars are the best dollars to build our future. Let us tell the world Blount County is Awesome by Nature.