At the park’s groundbreaking in January 2012, videos were shown of a ZipRider, which was promoted as a major attraction for the park.
Leah Reddick, liaison to the board for C.D. Roberts and Associates, said she hopes to answer all of the board members’ questions about the potential for the ride. Reddick also got board approval to seek a grant that would pay for an independent study of the business potential for the ride.
The ZipRider is a type of zip line that has a seat and provides automatic breaking. The original proposal at Top Trails was for four parallel rides that would cover more than a half-mile.
Reddick also announced an agreement with Quantum Racing to hold its championship side-by-side off-road race at TOP Trails Jan. 18. Quantum is a Georgia-based company that organizes off-road races, currently at Cullman and in Tennessee. She said there is a possibility of adding TOP Trails to their circuit.
The board received a check last week for $78,000 from the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs for a grant reimbursement request made last November for $90,000. That check and an advance payment of $50,000 from timber contractor Gary Steed helped the board get through a tight financial month. Steed is also a board member.
Park employee Wes Pope told the board he plans to build a special, child-friendly trail for children with small, low-powered four-wheelers after several requests from park visitors with children. Pope said the site would cover 2 to 3 acres, would be fenced, and is in a part of the park not planned for other uses.
Board Chairman Tommy Spears questioned Reddick about a $5,130 bill for 76 hours from C.D. Roberts and Associates for providing information to ADECA in the processing of that grant. C.D. Roberts and Associates is the Professional Services Group contracted to develop the park. C.D. “Chuck” Roberts was an original member of the board.
Spears noted that the PSG is paid 5 percent of grant money received as compensation for administering grants, and argued that providing information to ADECA should be considered part of grant administration.
Reddick said the additional scrutiny by ADECA amounted to an audit, and was not part of routine grant administration.
“We’re not sure what it is,” she said. “They’ve added an extra layer — they’ve been much more strict.” She said ADECA had gotten stricter in its processing of reimbursement requests after another sub grantee in the state misused grant funds and is now in prison.
The board authorized Spears to draft a letter to ADECA seeking clarification on which tasks be considered part of the PSG’s grant administration duties. He said he hopes to find answers about the additional questioning as well, and whether that resulted from deficiencies in the reimbursement requests.
A reimbursement request made in February for $306,000 is still pending.
Reddick presented a financial plan for the park, which the board approved on a 3-2 vote. The plan calls for raising the gate fee to $10 in July, and estimates entrance fees of $8,000 for the three months and $150,000 in timber revenue.
Development of the campground is also expected to begin this summer.
Spears and Joey Cooper voted against the plan. Cooper said it did not include setting aside timber funds for the Alabama Shooting Complex as previously agreed. The project has been tabled to see whether the Civilian Marksmanship Program proceeds with development of a shooting complex in the same part of the county.
“I’ve been hearing them make announcements about opening their complex for over three years. I want to see some dirt moved,” Cooper said.
The board also voted to give park manager Mic Barnett authority to work with marketing contractor Partners by Design to update the park’s website. Spears said there are photographs on the site showing people at an existing shooting complex, and felt it was misleading.
The board plans to hold a work session June 18 at 7 p.m. for the ZipRider presentation. The next regular board meeting is scheduled for July 9 at 7:30 a.m. at the park’s Environmental Center.
Contact Jim Smothers at email@example.com.