State: Trail Masters vital to park

Published 12:04 am Saturday, July 11, 2015

0522 Frank Jackson

Frank Jackson State Park and the Trail Masters received recognition this week from the Alabama State Parks for its unique partnership.

According to state park officials, the 22 state parks depend upon the generosity of volunteers to help keep the parks running smoothly.

The Lake Frank Jackson Trail Masters have over the last 12 years embraced the park as an outlet for community service.

Numerous projects from walking trails to bridges to helping draw people to the park with their Scarecrows in the Park event, the Trail Masters are constantly working to make the park better.

The Trail Masters do thousands of hours of work free of charge, President Charles Willis said.

“No other state park has this,” he said. “We have enabled the park to operate in the black. Almost any job, the park provides the materials and we provide the labor.”

In 2014, the Trail Masters and the park teamed up to open a new playground at the park.

The state purchased the equipment, but the Trail Masters put in the labor and constructed a walkway down to the island.

This year, the Trail Masters played an integral role in helping add eight new primitive campsites in a secluded area of the main campground.

Each year, Frank Jackson State Park is home to the City of Opp’s Fourth of July activities.

This year the Trail Masters sold drinks with all the proceeds going back to the park.

“When visitors travel to parks like Frank Jackson they spend money in the local communities, which creates revenue for local businesses and municipalities,” said Chris Jones, Frank Jackson State Park manager. “Often it’s the improvements made by volunteer groups like the Trail Masters that attract new visitors to the park.”

Annual revenue generated at Frank Jackson State Park has increased more than 30 percent since the Trail Masters partnership began.

Scarecrows in the Park event is responsible for almost one-third of that increase.

“Our mountain bike partners and the Trail Masters are perfect examples of how successful and mutually beneficial these types of relationships can be,” State Parks Director Greg Lein said. “These groups’ partnering efforts are blueprints that can be adapted to any of our 22 parks.”

Juanita Blocker, who along with her husband, Jim, were co-founders of the Trail Masters, said it is a dream come to fruition.

“Jim and I are so proud of the work this group continues to do,” she said.