The Alabama Forestry Commission and Iron Men Outdoor Ministries, Inc. have reached an agreement which ensures that the popular recreational area at Little River State Forest will remain open to the public. The two organizations, which had been involved in discussions about the future of Little River for several months, signed the agreement Monday, according to State Forester Linda Casey and Iron Men Outdoor Ministries Executive Director Rick Murphy.
The two-year agreement, which takes effect Friday, October 1, calls for Iron Men to provide volunteer labor and services to manage the recreational area in essentially the same manner as it was operated as a state park and later as a recreational area within Little River State Forest. The agreement provides that Iron Men will operate and maintain the recreational area at no cost to the state. Under the terms of the agreement, all of the proceeds from park entrance fees, fishing, and camping permits and other income will go back into the recreational area for maintenance and improvement.
“This is one of the most exciting developments for the Forestry Commission since I joined the organization in 2007,” Casey said. “With a projected budget shortfall of five million dollars for fiscal year 2011 and layoffs already implemented, there was a very real possibility that we would have had to close the recreational area or drastically reduce the opportunities for the public to use the area. This agreement ensures that a facility that has been enjoyed by the public for generations will remain open for fishing, hiking, camping, and the many other activities that Little River has to offer.”
“This is a tremendous opportunity for us to carry out our mission of service to the public,” Murphy said. “We know how important the Little River recreational area is to people in southwest Alabama and throughout the state. We are extremely proud to enter this partnership with the Forestry Commission, and we look forward not just to maintaining the facility, but also to implementing improvements that will make the area even more attractive to the public.”
According to the agreement, the Forestry Commission will maintain overall managerial control of the recreational area. Iron Men will conduct day-to-day operations, including maintenance of the grounds and buildings, rental of pavilions and campsites, and other duties which had been performed by state employees.
“That’s one of the aspects of this agreement that makes it so beneficial to the public,” Casey said. “With a significant reduction in the number of Commission employees, we have to focus the assignment of our people on our core services, primarily wildland fire prevention and suppression. This agreement ensures that we will keep the Little River recreational area open to the public and at the same time allows the employees who had been staffing the area to concentrate on the Commission’s primary mission.”
Iron Men Outdoor Ministries is a non-profit, non-denominational organization with no paid staff members. The faith-based organization is dedicated to helping individuals and families find fellowship through enjoyment of the outdoors. Iron Men has conducted numerous activities for special-needs children along with retreats and other gatherings for groups ranging from horseback-riding enthusiasts to hunters.
The Forestry Commission’s agreement with Iron Men specifies that the area will be known as “The Claude D. Kelley Recreational Area at Little River State Forest.” While the Iron Men organization officially assumes operation of the area on Friday, Forestry Commission employees will work alongside Iron Men volunteers during a transition period of at least six weeks. The two-year agreement can be extended if the two organizations determine that the arrangement is beneficial to the public.
For more information, contact:
Gary Cole at (251) 867-5368
Rick Murphy at (334) 207-6068