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State looks to add more options at 10 Ala parks

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 7, 2014 at 1:53 pm •  Published: February 7, 2014

ANNISTON, Ala. (AP) — Zip lines or canopy tours at Cheaha State Park? Maybe in the not-too-distant future.

Alabama State Parks, the state agency that operates the state's parks and resorts, wants to partner with outdoor adventure sports operators to bring more recreational activities to 10 state parks including Cheaha, according to director Greg Lein.

The idea grew out of a partnership in Gulf State Park that created the Gulf Adventure Center, Lein said Wednesday. The Gulf Adventure Center, which offers offers zip lines — wire lines installed at various heights above ground that people coast down in harnesses through the force of gravity — paddleboards and kayaks, opened in the park last spring.

Currently closed for the winter, the center is a private operation working in the state park as a concession vendor, Lein said. The partnership has worked so well, the officials from the park system would like to explore doing it at other parks including Joe Wheeler, Monte Sano, Guntersville, DeSoto, Lake Lurleen, Cheaha, Oak Mountain, Wind Creek, Chewacla and Lakepoint, he said.

Cheaha, a 2,799-acre park in the heart of the Talladega National Forest, currently offers camping, hiking, biking, swimming, fishing and geocaching. A hotel and a group lodge are operated there. It is on the route of the annual Cheaha Challenge, a 100-plus-mile bike ride that starts in Jacksonville and runs through Adam's Gap in the park and back to Jacksonville.

Adding other recreational activities might pull more people into the park, Lein said.

"This is a means to expand visitorship," Lein said. "It's also an opportunity for us to remind folks that there's a lot of fun adventures to have in an Alabama State Park."

The partnerships also could benefit the communities surrounding the parks by bringing in tourists and creating jobs at the venue as well, Lein said, adding the Gulf Adventure Center has attracted more first-time visitors to the park.

Some residents seem at least interested in the idea.

"I would love it," wrote Lisa Marie Smith of Hollis, in a message to The Star. "It would keep people from going somewhere else and spending their money in other counties."

A zip-lining enthusiast, Smith is heading to Georgia to go zip-lining and would enjoy having a course closer to home, she wrote.

However, however, worry about the zip lines becoming an eyesore for the park. Lein acknowledged that fear.

"We try to take into consideration the aesthetics," Lein said. "We're going to be looking for proposals where they have blended it into the landscape."

Ney Landrum, a former state park director in Florida for 19 years and the author of "The State Park Movement in America," said he believes adding thrill-type activities to state parks is antithetical to the role of state parks. Such parks date to the late 19th century and were created to fill the gaps between national parks, Landrum said.

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