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Jul. 22—County officials are optimistic that Stony Lonesome OHV Park could benefit from more than $750,000 in upgrades, repairs, new equipment and safety features thanks to a state-administered federal grant the park is favorably positioned to receive.
The Cullman County Commission on Tuesday signed off on a modified grant application that puts the park in line to receive an additional $25,000 in potential funding over the base grant application local officials already had submitted to the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA) earlier this year. If approved, federal funds would pay for more than half a million dollars of the total cost of improvements, with the county paying the remainder.
Split into two sections, one for trails and bridges; the other for excavation equipment, lighting, communication gear and more, the grants would help finance ongoing maintenance and improvements at the park — a significant driver of tourism and commerce for the county, according to Bradley Williams, director of the county economic development office.
"The economic impact of the park is huge for Cullman County. It's good for Cullman, and it's good for Dodge City, which gets a lot of visiting traffic just down the road from people coming to the park," he said. "Our goal is to keep the park in good shape, and improve it over time as we're able, to preserve a really unique economic asset for our county."
Heavy rain and flooding has washed away one of the park's two trail bridges and has damaged the other, said Williams. The grant funds would replace the destroyed bridge with newer, longer-lasting construction, while also covering the cost of new trail lights for night riding; a park-owned backhoe for in-house terrain maintenance (instead of drawing on the resources of the county road department); landscaping features, and radios to equip park staff with a stronger communication network at the 1,456-acre complex.
Though the grant hasn't yet been awarded, Williams and county officials are hopeful that its status as one of only a handful of similar public amenities for motorized recreation will position it favorably to receive the award. Additionally, he said, funding the bridge repairs through grant money would be a boon for county finances, since those would have to be made, at some point, regardless of the funding source.
"It's money to fix a problem that we'd not have to spend out of our General Fund," he said. "Being able to use grant funds instead of money that could go toward local roads would be good for taxpayers, and good for the county."