SCOTTSBORO, Ala. — Major renovations at the county park in Jackson County, Ala., have turned the public site into a destination for anglers, campers, boaters and outdoor enthusiasts who want access to one of the premier fishing spots in the South.
Most of the work was completed in late spring and word is starting to get out about what the public park has to offer, said park director Carl Barnes.
The improvements have been "the difference of daylight and dark," said Barnes, who has managed the park for eight and a half years.
Already the updated park has attracted two more fishing tournaments than it hosted last year, Barnes said, and on weekends, campsites and the park's new rental cabins have been filled up.
"We've been full up on everything," he said.
The park now has more campsites and better hookups, he said. Private vendors operate a store and boat rentals, and a barbecue restaurant.
Barnes said more efforts to market the county park now should boost visitation.
"We're getting a new website through the county," Barnes said, noting there also are plans to advertise more.
In 2015, County Commission Chairman Matthews Hodges said county leaders formed a kind of wish list for improved facilities, green space, pedestrian features, better parking, pavilions, playground improvements and a stage.
Those features have become a reality with the completion of the project just as Hodges' term ended. His last day was Friday.
"The biggest thing now is the kiddie park. You can hardly get in there on the weekends," Barnes said of the playground that has all-new equipment.
Those visitors are mostly local and they're regulars, but some are coming from farther away with RVs, tents and plans to stay in one of the new cabins, he said.
"We've had folks from as far as Montana, Washington state and Oklahoma," Barnes said. "We also had some evacuees from the storm [Hurricane Irma] from Florida and Georgia."
As duck and goose hunting seasons open with cold weather, Barnes hopes to see a surge in visiting hunters.
"We've had about 100 inquiries a week," he said.
Barnes said county government officials, park staff and designers "all worked together to better this place," he said.
Barnes said he'd like to see a civic center added to the park in the future.
Contact staff writer Ben Benton at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6569. Follow him on Twitter @BenBenton or at www.facebook.com/benbenton1 on Facebook.