Mack Ferguson, one of three board members whose term is expiring, raised the issue of installing a ZipRider late in the meeting. The ZipRider is a brand of zip line that features a braking system allowing high speed rides.
A June presentation to the board indicated full installation of a ZipRider would cost more than $3 million, with annual operating expenses of $620,000 and a prediction that it would draw 45,000 people to the park each year.
Ferguson reminded the board of a previous decision to use grant funds for a $6,800 feasibility study on the project, and noted that the contract with developer C.D. Roberts Associates was terminated before that was accomplished. The board requested that park manager Wes Pope investigate whether an unused portion of a grant could be used for the study, and Ferguson to investigate whether any grants from USDA would be available for the study.
Ferguson said the park can’t continue to operate on grants, and said he was a firm believer in the ZipRider, which he said has been enormously successful as a summertime attraction at ski resorts. “I think it’s going to be the largest net money generator for the sustainability of the park,” he said.
During discussions of the project, Ferguson suggested venture capitalists as a possible funding source, but admitted no proposals had been made for the project.
Board chairman Tommy Spears also asked whether any other type of zip line had been considered as an alternative. Board member Buster Taylor said canopy zip lines could probably be installed at a cost of $50,000 to $100,000, and added that staff must be certified to operate them, and annual inspections are required. Board member Gary Steed suggested consideration of starting with less expensive lines with the possibility of expanding in the future.
Ferguson also asked about the status of some $40,000 in final invoices from C.D. Roberts, which were received by the board a month ago and have not been paid. Spears said he and park accountant Richard Naff were still going through invoices trying to reconcile billed items and hours before authorizing payment. The board agreed earlier in the matting to pay an invoice from Roberts for a two-week billing period at 15 hours per week for a total of $2,159.
Pope reported on a wide range of items at the park. In spite of heavy rain the day of the park’s recent “Fun Day,” he called the event a success, with 100-125 visitors attending. Pope said he needs to rent an excavator to complete work on a gentle trail for children with small ATVs. Signs are being placed on trails to help riders find their way back to paved roads on the complex. Pope said he is in discussions with a representative of a horse riding club to attempt to regain a $100,000 grant for horse trails that had been returned. Pope said he was still considering options on a wash station.
The board approved a resolution authorizing Taylor to work with the board’s attorney on a request to transfer land from the county to the park. The proposal would be for a lease of county landfill property off of Jackson Trace Road, which is adjacent to park property, and the transfer of about 130 acres of land including Bald Mountain to expand the park. Taylor said a reversion clause and access to communication towers on the mountain would be part of the proposed agreement. The County Commission would need to approve the transfer to complete the action.
On other action:
• Spears welcomed Lincoln Police Chief Travis McGrady to the meeting. McGrady was appointed by the city of Lincoln to replace Steed on the board. Steed said this would be his last meeting. Spears and Ferguson will also be completing their terms on the board. The Talladega City Council has yet to name new members for their seats, pending completion of an audit of the park.
• Naff gave a financial report showing the park had $1,851 in deposits since September 10 with expenditures of $25,919.65 for the same period, and a balance of $17,336.60 in the bank. He said funds from two grant reimbursement requests are expected in October and funding from timber cutting on the park property. The board still owes a balance of almost $80,000 on its line of credit.
• Pope said 100-200 Boy Scouts are expected for a weekend event at the park November 22-24.
• Volunteers are being sought for a clean-up day from 8-12 Saturday.
• Free admission for card-holding veterans will be held Saturday, Nov. 9, in honor of Veterans Day.
• The board approved a proposal from Chad Jones of First National Bank to reduce the board’s line of credit from $300,000 to $150,000 with an interest rate of 6.5 percent.
• Steed said wet ground continued to delay completion of timber thinning on the property. He expects to complete the work in six to eight weeks, and anticipates perhaps as much as $70,000 more revenue for the park.
• Heard from Kelley Keeton Taft of the Florence-based Kelley Group, who is interested in working on future development at the park.
The next board meeting is scheduled for Nov. 12 at 7:30 a.m.
Contact Jim Smothers at email@example.com.