Spotlight on Talladega, Calhoun, Clay and Cleburne counties
Downtown Talladega is home to the historic Ritz Theatre, a regional performing arts center that was built in the 1930s.
Photo courtesy of Alabama Tourism Department/Karim Shamsi-Basha
In the city of Talladega, a 2,800-acre park, Top Trails, is under construction, developed by the cities of Talladega and Lincoln, says Talladega Mayor Larry Barton. Amenities will include OHV trails, campsites, shooting ranges, archery, fishing lakes, swimming pools, paintball, a helicopter pad, a zipline, a skateboard/rollerblade park and a picnic area. It also will be handicap accessible. “We’re hoping next month to build a welcome center,” Barton says.
Talladega College, located in a historic district of the city, is planning a $5 million student center and a $20 million facility to house the famous Amistad Murals that were painted in 1938 by artist Hale Aspacio Woodruff, Barton says. The murals, valued at $40 million, are being restored and will go on a national museum tour.
In Lincoln, home of Honda Manufacturing of Alabama, the city just moved into a new $3.5 million city hall and fire station, designed to house all emergency vehicles, Mayor Lew Watson says. The city also bought a new ambulance, extended its sewer lines, improved its water lines and annexed a good bit of property, he says. “Having Honda here has really helped us,” he says.
Lincoln also is embarking on a landscape project at a former high school that houses a training program for children, and is in the final stages of a new park that will include a fishing trail for students and is accessible to special needs children.
The city of Childersburg in Talladega County is being recognized soon as an Alabama Community of Excellence, says Pete Storey, Childersburg Chamber of Commerce executive director. The city also is embarking on downtown revitalization that will include sidewalks, landscaping, new signals and other improvements in hopes of attracting more retail, he says. The Kiwanis Club also is involved with building a park downtown, and the city just finished a new entrance to its industrial park.
In Sylacauga, known as the Marble City because of its three quarries that produce the whitest and purest marble, an annual festival celebrates that distinction. In fact, there are three resident sculptors, and sculptor Craigger Brown is working on a sculpture in front of City Hall called “Sylacauga Emerging,” says Carol Bates, executive director of the Sylacauga Chamber of Commerce.
In addition to providing quality marble for structures nationwide, Sylacauga quarries have attracted other industries that use the marble’s calcium carbonate in various products, says the city’s Mayor Sam Wright.
Blue Bell Creameries helped develop a park downtown and gave it to the city, Bates says, and at least two antique malls have sprung up.
The city of Anniston just opened a state-of-the-art, $4.5 million aquatics and fitness center on the campus of McClellan, a mixed-use development that was the site of a former Army base. The eight-lane, 25-yard pool is the star attraction, but it also features exercise equipment and other activities.
McClellan has more than 900 residents and about 2,500 people work there. With an amphitheatre, retail, sports facilities and more, McClellan, considered a catalyst for economic growth, is still growing. It announced that Alagasco will build a new operations center there, and its McClellan Park Medical Mall is very popular, with medical offices, a spa and more. McClellan also will get a new tenant, Medi Klean, a company that sterilizes medical waste with steam. McClellan recently opened a road from the new bypass, and traffic has quadrupled, also making it easier to access McClellan from I-20.
Also in Anniston, the Anniston Water Works and Sewer Board moved into the refurbished Watermark Tower downtown. The board leases space from local investors who bought the building. The city also is in the midst of building a $15 million justice center that will include a new police department, municipal court, magistrate’s office and city jail. It will take up an entire city block. And, the state Department of Human Resources plans a $16 million building at the site of an old cotton mill downtown.
The Spirit of Anniston, a downtown group, is working hard on its Anniston Civil Rights Trail, says Betsy Bean, executive director. Two sites have been readied, and there is a strategic plan and fundraising for other sites. The trail will be included in the Alabama Department of Tourism’s Civil Rights Trail brochure that features sites statewide.
The city of Jacksonville is planning a new public safety complex, says Mayor Johnny Smith. The $8-12 million project will house the police and fire department, the jail, courts and council chambers, he says. The project also means the city will gain a second fire station. It will be built on property the city owns at the south end of town. “Our old building was built in the 30s and it is hard for the police department to adapt all their equipment and technology in it, and our jail is too small,” he says.
Jacksonville has started a “music on the square” program downtown, encouraging people to bring a lunch and enjoy live music by local musicians during lunch hour in the square with its new sidewalks and lighting. Last year, the city finished remodeling its old train station, and it is used as a rest stop for those riding bikes and walking the Chief Ladiga Trail. “That trail is used so much,” he says. “We have visitors from all over the U.S. We just opened up a mountain bike trail too.”
The city also built a disc golf course that has been very popular in this university town, Smith says. “You cannot put a value on what JSU means to this area—there is no question we would be a crossroads without it,” he says. JSU was instrumental in bringing another hotel to town, he says.
Broadband is coming to the county, which will not only open up wireless communications for its residents but also will be an economic development boost, officials say. It should be ready in the fall.
The county is embarking on a strategic plan that will join Ashland, the county seat, and Lineville via Highway 9, says Mary Patchunka-Smith of the Clay County Chamber of Commerce. The two cities, separated only by five miles, also will be joined via a new high school, Central High of Clay County, which replaces the high school in each city, she says. “Both our cities in the county are close together, and we are going to work on making the corridor beautiful and friendly, but also have each city keep its own identity.” Future plans include lining the five-mile corridor with sidewalks, a bike path and lighting.
In addition, the city of Ashland has a sidewalk project and an urban park is under construction, and Lineville also has a sidewalk project, she says.
Heflin, an Alabama Community of Excellence city and the county seat, is investing in its residents’ quality of life, says Mayor Anne Berry. “We like to say we are rural in geography only, because we have an active arts council, theatre group and ballet company, among other cultural amenities,” she says.
The city developed a disc golf course at the Kalhulga Creek watershed, built a field target range for pellet gun competition and is about to add an archery park with a federal grant, she says. Heflin, where 30 percent of the county is made up of the Talladega National Forest, clearly has an advantage with outdoor activities. It also is the home of nature, canoe, bike and horse trails. “Our theory is to start where you are and use what you have,” she says. “We want our city to be a special place to come visit.”