Cleburne County business makes a splash
by Laura Camper
HEFLIN — The roar of engines, the smell of exhaust mixed with peanuts and barbeque — but most of all the mud — are drawing people to Heflin’s newest attraction.

Bama Boggin’ Mud Park opened in Heflin in March in 30-degree weather and still drew 300 to 400 people, said Judy Blackwell, one of the owners and developers of the new park.

Each weekend the park has hosted an event the crowds have gotten larger, Blackwell said.

The park has held three events so far. On Saturday, the park was set to host its latest event, this one for all-terrain vehicles.

Events for trucks and for all-terrain vehicles are separate, Blackwell said, so the trucks don’t run over the ATVs.

The Blackwells — Judy, her husband Carl and his son Seth — also take a weekend in between events to clean the park before hosting another event, she said. Eventually, they’d like to be able to hire people and expand the events to every weekend, she said.

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Right now, the only people they hire are an extractor, to pull out vehicles that get stuck in the mud, off-duty policemen to provide security and a band to provide entertainment. Volunteers work the gates in exchange for free entry and a T-shirt, she said. Vendors such as Smoke-N-Hot BBQ, Big Man’s Boiled Peanuts and A. Foster’s Franks, sell food at the events, Blackwell said.

The year-long effort to build the park was for Seth Blackwell, his stepmother said.

“Carl wanted his son to have his dream,” she said. “That’s what this is all about.”

Seth didn’t have the funding, so the family helped finance the dream and worked to clear half the 115 acres and build the park, Blackwell said.

The park is mostly mud bog, with water and mud deep enough for trucks and four wheelers to slosh through and even get stuck in, she said. There are also trails for four-wheeler enthusiasts who prefer to ride on dry land, Blackwell said. The family also has bought a 12-acre tract for some cabins “if we can ever get power in there,” she added.

While the Blackwells are developing their property, Floyd Davis is developing some 2,000 acres off County Road 19 he owns along the Tallapoosa River for horseback riding, fishing and camping. He hopes to open on the Fourth of July weekend.

“We’re just trying to get our feet wet right now,” said Danny Rollins, who has been working for Davis on the plans.

So far, there is a lodge on the property that has been rented for weddings and events. It has an outdoor patio with a rock wall and waterfall. Rollins and Davis are currently at work on an outdoor kitchen complete with a fireplace, smoker and pavilion.

But there’s still work to be done. The campground doesn’t have liability insurance yet, Rollins said. Rollins also visited the Cleburne County Commission meeting to talk to them about road work on County Road 863, sometimes called Ross Mountain Road. That road could be used as an entrance to the park if it were straightened out and widened, Davis said. The county would also have to replace the bridge on County Road 18 to one that could support truck and horse trailer traffic, Davis added. The bridge is one for which the county has applied for a grant to replace. Gov. Robert Bentley has yet to announce which counties will be awarded grants through the program.

In addition, Davis hopes to develop a mud bog on some property he owns near Interstate 20’s Exit 205, near Bama Boggin.

“If this comes together the way Floyd (Davis) wants it to, the people around here will benefit so much,” Rollins said.

Outdoor recreation is big business. According to an Outdoor Industry Association’s 2012 Outdoor Recreation Economy Report, Americans spend $646 billion on outdoor recreation each year for supplies, equipment and travel. That spending supports 6.1 million jobs. The most popular outdoor sports are fishing, running and camping at first, second and third respectively, said Avery Stonich, communications manager for the association.

While camping is third in participation, campers are first in spending for their hobby, she said. About 13 percent of all American adults or 26.1 million will camp annually, Stonich said. Campers will contribute $143 billion in consumer spending to support their hobby, she said. Off road activities contribute $66.5 billion in consumer spending annually, she added. In Alabama, 57 percent of adults participate in outdoor recreation each year. They generate $7.5 billion in consumer spending and support 86,000 jobs, Stonich said.

And over the last five years, spending for outdoor recreation has increased about 5 percent a year, Stonich said.

“I think the message there is Americans make outdoor recreation a priority even during times of economic hardship,” Stonich said.

Staff writer Laura Camper: 256-235-3545. On Twitter @LCamper_Star.
© 2013