We think it’s fair to say there would be no TOP Trails Park without his efforts.
For years no one knew quite what to do with the land. It was developed as a storage facility for munitions, with a number of concrete bunkers — igloos — built on the site as storage buildings. Several government agencies in the area used the igloos for storage in recent years, but for the most part, the land sat empty and unused.
That is, except for the motorcycle and four-wheel riders who found the area to be a great place to go for recreational riding. Technically, they weren’t supposed to be there. But with the land becoming available as part of the federal lands-to-parks program, that seemed the natural direction to go with the land. But the local governments that held title to the land over the years took no steps toward opening up the acreage for public use.
Hubbard, a Talladega native who returned to the area after 35 years in metro Atlanta, got involved with the Cheaha Trail Riders club and learned about the land, and he and other club members caught a vision for a trails park that they couldn’t turn loose.
With Hubbard playing a leading role, he and other club members learned about writing grants and began talking to everyone they could to get help in making the park a reality.
Bit by bit things started falling into place. Through a public meeting ideas were proposed. The governor and the state’s Conservation and Natural Resources Commissioner came to see the land.
Hubbard contacted a new grant administrator with the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs, Rob Grant, and asked what grants were available, and would he come look at the site.
Grant was so impressed, he not only approved the proposals for the park, but he was also the person who nominated Hubbard for the award, which was presented by the American Trails organization, the world's largest trail advocacy group.
The city of Lincoln submitted the winning park proposal and formed a partnership with the city of Talladega, officially designated the Public Park Authority of the cities of Lincoln and Talladega. TOP Trails is an acronym for Talladega-Lincoln Outdoors Park.
Hubbard served on the park authority’s board as development began and helped with the development of a comprehensive set of plans for the park’s growth.
He resigned from the board citing health reasons, but hasn’t lost his interest in trails.
In addition to his most recent award, the Cheaha Trail Riders club has twice been recognized as the club of the year for its work on behalf of trail riders, and the work extends beyond TOP Trails. Hubbard and others in the club have organized several volunteer workdays at other trail sites — Doc Hilt in Clay County, Minooka Park in Chilton County, Stony Lonesome in Cullman County and the Kentuck OHV Park in the Talladega National Forest. Hubbard also operates the Cheaha Trail Riders website, which actively promotes the use of public and private riding parks throughout the state.
But the main focus of his work has been the TOP Trails park, which likely would not exist had it not been for his efforts.
Much progress has been made at TOP Trails, and challenges still lie ahead. Many people have contributed to the park’s development, and undoubtedly more will have roles to play in the future.
But they wouldn’t be where they are today if it hadn’t been for Hubbard. We appreciate his efforts and determination to bring new recreational opportunities to our part of the state.