Work starts next week on Florala lake project

Published 12:26 am Wednesday, January 28, 2009

It took three years, some ingenuity and a bit of persuasion, but beginning next week Florala residents should see the first signs of work on the Florala State Park amphitheater project — specifically the removal of the “Ladies Clubhouse.”

Tim Ramsden of CDG Engineers addressed council members Monday night with a tentative construction timeline for the project.

“This project is finally here,” Ramsden said. “It was three years in the making but work will start in April.”

However, site prep work will begin next week with the removal of the “Ladies Clubhouse” and other structures on the new building site, said Mayor Robert Williamson.

Williamson and the other council members voted to donate the clubhouse to the Florala Historical Society to ensure its preservation.

“Everyone from the start has wanted to save the building — it holds a lot of special memories for the people of Florala,” Williamson said. “It holds great sentimental value and the only way to save it, at this point, is to donate it to the historical society.

“Mr. and Mrs. Charles Russell have been so gracious as to allow the structure to be placed on private property and, from what I hear, the historical society has great plans for it,” he said.

Before the night’s council meeting, the city’s board of adjustments met and granted approval for the move, which must be completed before the Sat., Feb. 7, burn date of the remaining two structures — the park manager’s house and the other clubhouse.

Ramsden said the project is unique in nature and the first of its type in Alabama. Initially, project coordinators asked for $3 million for the project; however, the Department of Conservation only allotted $1 million for material costs.

“Work is being done by the (Incident Readiness Team) with the U.S. Air Force Reserves — which means we were given $1 million — and will end up with a $2 to $2.5 million project, since all of their labor is donated,” Ramsden said.

He said the men are using the construction project as a deployment training exercise, and the idea was first presented by Florala resident Gil Taylor, who used to serve as an IRT member.

A reduction in grant funds led to a reduction in the size of the project, Ramsden said.

“The plans changed to have a large multipurpose room — about 11,500 square feet — with an amphitheater behind it, overlooking Lake Jackson,” he said. “It’s something to be proud of.”

The multipurpose room will seat up to 700 people, while the amphitheater will seat 500 in concrete, stadium-style bleachers.

“You’re going to see a lot of activity out there until the end of summer,” he said. “I’d say they should be finished sometime in August.”

Ramsden said he doesn’t believe funding will allow renovations at Mannings Landing, new playground equipment or additional parking; however, a reconfiguration of the parking lot will allow for 60 new spaces.

“I think the general consensus was let’s get this building built and worry about the rest later,” he said. “I think we’re in a good position. It’s a good starting point. They’ve designated $1 million to the project. Let’s see what we can do with it.”