Oak Mountain State Park is growing—Forever Wild votes to acquire 277-acre addition

View Of Belcher Tract
View of the Forever Wild Belcher Tract, L to R – Steve Northcutt, TNC in Alabama Director of Protection, Jim McClintock, Forever Wild Board member, Scot Duncan, Alabama Audubon and Bryant Turner, Jr., Forever Wild Board member (The Nature Conservancy in Alabama)

The Forever Wild Board of Trustees voted this week at their quarterly meeting in Mobile to move forward and acquire 277-acres of forestland in Shelby County adjacent to Oak Mountain State Park— Alabama’s largest state park.

King’s Chair viewshed

State Park
(Oak Mountain State Park Facebook page)

Why does this new addition matter?  Forever Wild Board member Jim McClintock poetically described to The Bama Buzz the importance of the land.

“If you’ve ever had the good fortune to hike up the trail to King’s Chair, it’s a steep climb, and it’s a committed hike. But when you get there you have a stunning view of the valley in front of you. There’s a railroad track running down the middle of the valley. It’s completely undeveloped. You’re looking at a  mountain facing you— and the valley in the forefront. That’s the 277-acre  property that was protected forever.

That means the development that’s just looming over the backside of the mountain will not come over the mountain into the valley as planned.”

The new addition, which connects to Highway 11,  is also adjacent to the 1640-acre Forever Wild Oak Mountain State Park tract that was purchased in 2022.

Oak Mountain State Park “very significant

Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Commissioner Chris Blankenship called the purchase of the property very significant.

“It’s important for us to keep that viewshed and also Cooper Branch—a creek that runs through the property — we are very glad to protect the water quality in the area,” Blankenship told The Bama Buzz.

“I think that the public access for these areas are going to be well received as the population continues to grow in that part of Shelby County. It is great to have this green space protected and  to provide outdoor recreation for the quality of life and health of the citizens of that part of the state.”

Local support – Coosa Riverkeeper

At the Forever Wild meeting in Mobile, Justinn Overton with Coosa Riverkeeper spoke passionately about the addition of the land which is called the Belcher Tract Phase II.

“The Belcher Tract Phase II is largely undisturbed, which is a huge juxtaposition to the fast-growing communities within Shelby County. Cooper Branch, a tributary to the North Fork of Yellowleaf Creek, runs through the property along with a forested ridge with mountain longleaf pine and hardwood habitat…a dream for any outdoor enthusiast.”

Additional Actions by Forever Wild

According to Commissioner Blankenship, it was also a great day for another popular State Park — Lake Guntersville State Park.  The Forever Wild Board voted to acquire the 60-acre John Doss addition adjacent to the park. 

The Board also authorized the staff to move forward on a first appraisal for property adjacent to Cathedral Caverns State Park in Jackson County.

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Pat Byington
Pat Byington
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