The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

January 31, 2013

County Commission hears plans for campground improvements

By Kim West
kwest@athensnews-courier.com

— RV campers might have another option to roost near a river if the Limestone County officials decide to move forward with the Lucy’s Branch Campground.

During a Wednesday work session, the County Commission listened to a proposal by Mike Nave, director of county parks and recreation, to begin the first phase of adding as many as 24 campsites to the 35-acre site at Lucy’s Branch, which is near Elk River in the western portion of the county.

The project will cost approximately $75,000 to install utility infrastructure, including water, sewage and electric.

Nave said the land, which was leased to the county by the Tennessee Valley Authority, isn’t being used other than by county workers who mow and maintain the site.

“We’re already maintaining it, and right now it’s a dead area,” Nave said. “There’s a boat launch and a floating pier already there. If you’re already going to maintain it, then why not put something there, and get a little revenue from it?”

Nave said adding another campsite creates an economic impact for the county, in terms of attracting tourists and generating sales tax revenue.

“It’s putting people in Limestone County, people that spend money on gas and food here,” he said. “That’s my point to the proposal — to do something more than cut the grass … if we’re not going to do something, let’s give it back to TVA.”

The parks and recreation department currently operates Cowford Campground, which Nave said averages an 85 percent capacity rate from January to November when the campsite is open to the public. Cowford is a 50-acre property with 46 spaces available.

The Lucy’s Branch campground is topographically more suitable for RVs than Cowford, and the proposed site has more amenities available for campers, according to Nave.

“The (Lucy Branch) site is level, and the campsite is better,” Nave said. “There’s a restaurant to eat at and a gas station across the slough. (Cowford is) the only campground other than Mill Creek up in Veto that’s a recreational campground in the county that I know of, and people want to be on the river.”

Commissioner Ben Harrison said during the meeting he reviewed last year’s budget and wanted to gather more information before approving the new campsite.

“I looked at the budget last year … there’s a difference of $80,000 between revenue and expenses, and I would like to see a plan to see how to bring revenue and expenses together,” Harrison said. “It’s $75,000 to do that (at Lucy’s Branch). We need to sit down and figure out how to take advantage of the ATRIP third round … right now I’m in conservation mode for the ATRIP money.

“Philosophically I’m against it — I know everyone does but I think the private sector can do things much more efficiently than the government.”

ATRIP, or the Alabama Transportation and Road Improvement Program, provides an 80 percent match for high-priority road and bridge projects, while local governments provide a 20 percent match.

According to Gov. Robert Bentley’s office, the next round of ATRIP funding will be announced Friday or Monday.

The County Commission will meet at 10 a.m. Monday, Feb. 4, at the Clinton Street annex.