As shelter-in-place orders have put restrictions on communities, outdoor spaces and recreation have become all the more vital in the time of COVID-19. Spending quality time outdoors has proved to be a critical pastime for many individuals and families. That impact can be seen in Walker County, where outdoor activity is at an all-time high.
Walker County Lake, for example, experienced an unprecedented number of visitors in April and May. In February, the Walker County Commission officially opened two new kayak and canoe access points on Blackwater Creek; and today, you can’t drive past one of the access points without seeing a vehicle. During these uncertain times, the community has greatly benefitted from the work of the Livable Communities partners of the Walker County Health Action Partnership to enhance access to outdoor recreation.
Just before our communities shut down due to the pandemic, partners of Livable Communities hosted the inaugural Recreation Economies for Rural Communities (RERC) workshop in early March in partnership with Jasper Main Street. In 2019, Jasper Main Street was one of 10 communities selected out of 170 applicants nationwide to participate in this new planning-assistance program sponsored by the Environmental Protection Agency. The purpose of the program is to help communities develop strategies and an action plan to revitalize their main streets through outdoor recreation. The steering committee, local residents and partners identified four priorities through a two-day workshop. Those priorities include:
- Growing a culture of outdoor recreation and health.
- Marketing and connecting local amenities to downtown Jasper.
- Expanding outdoor recreation-related businesses and economic development.
- Improving stewardship of natural resources by managing and protecting those assets.
Moving forward, partners of Livable Communities will continue to work on specific recreation projects, in hopes of turning Walker County into an outdoor destination for people with all types of recreational interests. These projects include: expanding current walking and biking trails that connect downtown Jasper to Walker County Lake; developing mountain bike trails that are easily accessible to downtown amenities; and advertising existing recreational assets within Walker County. With these additions to already existing resources, we hope to generate new businesses related to outdoor recreation in downtown Walker County. The vision is to make Jasper and the surrounding county into a must-visit destination for not only local adventure-seekers but all kinds of outdoor enthusiasts. Click here to check out the outdoor recreation plan for Jasper.
Through the Bold Goals Coalition, numerous partners have come together to support Jasper’s continued growth and to invest in improving economic opportunities and health outcomes for Jasper and Walker County residents. Partners include: Walker Area Community Foundation, United Way of Central Alabama, Jasper Main Street, City of Jasper, Walker County Commission, Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham, Freshwater Land Trust and many others.
The Bold Goals Coalition is 200 organizations solving big community problems by aligning partners, resources and agendas.