Phase I of an ambitious $3 million plus Talladega Mountains Natural Resource Center-U.S. Forestry administration building to be located at the intersection of Highway 78 and 281 (scenic byway) has been funded and money for Phase II is being sought.
Jacksonville State University’s Director of Environmental Policy, Information Center and Field School, Pete Conroy, said $800,000 from the U.S. Forestry Service will fund Phase I of the plans which call for construction of an administration center at the site of the present work center.
Conroy said JSU is seeking an additional $2-$3 million to build an adjacent facility which will serve as a public information facility serving Mt. Cheaha, the Talladega National Forest, Pinhoti Trail and all surrounding natural parks and attractions in northeast Alabama.
“We want this (facility) to be a big attraction to help bring visitors, tourist to the area where they can enjoy nature and spend some money,” Conroy added. “It will serve as a base for a field school and be a destination tourist attraction.” He said JSU is working with Congressman Mike Rogers along with Senators Richard Shelby and Jeff Sessions to obtain funding.
Shoal Creek Ranger District Ranger Earl Stuart said construction should begin in June with completion by the winter. They will vacate their facility on Highway 46 and move operations into the new building.
Of the planned resource center, Stuart said it would be built with a campus type design enabling the Forest Service and the Center to work independently yet compliment each other.
The facility could serve numerous state, federal and non-governmental agencies.
Stuart sees the project as a “one stop shop for Northeast Alabama” and could be a big economic impact for the area.