“Normally it’s a three year program, it’s actually going to take us four years to complete it because something we weren’t aware of,” said Howard Smith, ACE coordinator for Childersburg. “It was a misunderstanding on our part. We have a leadership program through the chamber and we have to have a leadership program going consecutively. We took a year off. We thought because we had a program in place that it didn’t matter if we took some time off from it but it has to be a continuous program and we didn’t understand that. We now have a program going on right now.”
Smith said it would take four years to complete the program, “simply because there wasn’t enough participation.” But he said everything is back on track and going well.
“Everything was on track all along, except for the leadership program,” he said. “We just didn’t know we had to do it that way.”
The ACE program, created in 2002 as a nonprofit organization, uses a three-phase approach to assist participating communities in planning and preparing for a more vibrant future. Childersburg joined the program in 2008.
In Phase I, the community undergoes an assessment to identify its assets as well as barriers impacting the city’s success. In Phase II, the community must create a leadership program, prepare a strategic plan, and designate a local ACE coordinator. In Phase III, the community initiates all steps vital for realizing the vision of the community.
“We want to incorporate some health programs, too, not only the senior citizens but we want to work with our kids that are not as active as some of the other kids and possibly gear them not necessarily toward the athletics side — but they are more than welcome to be a part of it — but to try as a whole to get our kids more healthy by exercising and teaching them nutrition,” Smith said.
Smith, who is also Childersburg Parks and Recreation director, said he has to pick up the pace with the health programs available in Childersburg. He said he wants to teach residents of all ages how to eat healthy and how to exercise.
“People want to move to Childersburg and they want to know what kind of recreation department you have and what programs you have to offer so that’s going to be a huge part of what we’re trying to put together,” Smith said. “We want to make it appealing to new people trying to move in to our community.”
Another goal Childersburg is trying to achieve with the ACE program is to get more specialized doctors in town. Smith said he is pleased Dr. Lawrence Lemak recently opened a clinic off U.S. 280 in Childersburg. The clinic specializes in sports injuries and orthopedics.
Yet another objective is to expand and develop tourism programs to meet the needs of the city’s residents and visitors. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Pete Storey said the chamber is working on expanding the tourism programs.
Ephraim Stockdale, a community development project manager who works with Alabama Power, suggested last year that Childersburg should increase tourism activities 25 percent by Dec. 31, 2011, and have its portion of the scenic trail along the Coosa River 100 percent developed by the end of this month. Talladega and Tallasahatchee creeks were recently approved by the City Council to be a part of the Alabama Scenic River Trail.
Philip Hamrick is on the Board of Directors for the Alabama Scenic River Trail, which is 631 miles. He said this could bring in more tourism for the city. Recently, one creek saw 6,000 visitors down a 10-mile stretch.
“Now that we’ve adopted that, we opened up 45 more miles of creek, so you see the potential there,” Hamrick said.
Storey recently said Childersburg has a lot to offer countywide with the cave and the Grist Mill.
“Hopefully, once the deed gets transferred to the city at the Grist Mill we’ll be able to do a lot more with tourism, offering things for people to come and see,” he said.
Once Childersburg is deemed an Alabama Community of Excellence it will receive a $5,000 grant to help sustain its visions. To maintain the ACE designation, a community must be recertified every three years.
“People come to Alabama and they look at that, then that just helps promote your city,” Smith said. “The whole concept is to put your city on the map.”
Smith said he loves the community and that “it’s been hard work but it’s been a fun ride so far.”