Local citizen protests RV park; Cullman Parks, Recreation & Sports Tourism responds

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Resident Elizabeth McDowell protests the development of an RV park on the Burrow property along County Road 222. (Maggie Darnell for The Cullman Tribune)

CULLMAN, Ala. – During the public comment portion of its meeting agenda Monday evening, the Cullman City Council heard from local resident Elizabeth McDowell, who is unhappy about the recently announced development of an RV park at the City’s Burrow property at 1315 County Road 222. McDowell, who supports the development of a botanical garden at the site, told the council that she was speaking on behalf of constituents who had drawn up an online petition (via change.org) to block the RV park. She read statements from other opponents, including:

  • “We don’t need a RV park we need something families can go out and do.” (The full statement, found on the petition website, read, “We don’t need a RV park we need something families can go out and do larger bowling or arcade something else.”)
  • “They have been working on this property for months, now, with absolute secrecy, and now it comes out that taxpayers are footing the bill for something we already have and never agreed to, with no discussion with the community whatsoever.” 
  • “Our tax dollars could be way better spent instead of building another rv park.”
  • “Such a beautiful property that’s being wasted.”
  • “They are doing it for Rock the South.” (The full statement, found on the petition website, read, “They are just doing for rock the south. So dumb.”)

 

McDowell began reading the names of 67 people who had signed the petition, but was reminded of her time limit by council president Jenny Folsom. McDowell said that she would send the names in writing.

She then went on to share her own statement: “I am here to express my deep disappointment in Mayor (Woody) Jacobs, the city council and city parks and recreation in regard to the construction of an RV park on the Burrow Museum property designated for public use. The plans and ideas were hidden from the public intentionally, too, with a complete disregard for the community’s wants and needs. 

“You have insulted our intelligence, repeating that this was not done in conjunction with or for Rock the South. The RV park has one use and one alone, and that is so the wealthy can have their own private parking lot during this event. This RV park could have been placed on the Rock the South property itself.”

McDowell pointed out that various ideas had previously been presented to the council for use of the property, and said that former Cullman Parks, Recreation and Sports Tourism (CPRST) Executive Director Nathan Anderson had told her, while he was still the agency head, that the City had not developed any long-term plans for the site, instead focusing on the development of the new city sports complex on the old Marvin’s property.

She then continued, “You could have chosen to showcase this property in a way that benefited the community at large, and not just a select few, something that would have made a legacy of the (Evelyn) Burrow name, and continued her vision and her greater love for her community and her hometown.

“As soon as Rock the South was moved onto County Road 469, plans were shifted after the first year there, and this RV park was only made aware to the public after construction had already started, making any dissent a moot point, and that was the plan the whole time. I’m here to dissent, if only to have our voices heard saying that we were here, and we would dissent and would make comments on it, but you continued anyway- that we have zero community backing for this project and it has gone on without concern.

“The City has little concern for those living in the county and the impact that their plans have on the surrounding people and their houses and their lives. We have a choice, and until the City starts learning that they are representatives of the community, and that our tax money isn’t Rock the South money, we are going to make a stink. The majority of the people that shop in the city travel from outside of it to do so. We’ll be pursuing boycotts and protests until this is rectified.”

CPRST responds

After the meeting, CPRST Operations Director Kyle Clark reached out to The Tribune to respond to McDowell’s claims, saying, “The RV park concept dates back to-we’ve been talking about this since back in 2018 which, in 2018, Rock the South was still at Heritage Park. We’d been working on this project long before Rock the South ever even moved across the interstate and over there close to the property, so that statement’s just not true at all.

“We’ve been working on this project for, now, a couple of years. We’ve been trying to determine-we’ve talked to other campground people who’ve built campgrounds, who’ve run campgrounds, first of all to see if it’s a profitable market to jump into, which we’ve determined that it should be very profitable. We’ve talked to people who built new campgrounds in the past five years, and (learned) how hugely successful they’ve been with a luxury RV park, upscale RV park. We think it’s going to be great for the city, and it has nothing to do with Rock the South. Yeah, Rock the South may bring visitors to the park one weekend a year, but this is about more than one weekend a year. We hope to fill this thing up 52 weeks a year. 

“Our eventual plan is to, hopefully, turn the property into more like an outdoor adventure area, with maybe an aqua park on one of the ponds at some point in the future. So it’s going to be much more than just an RV park. It’s going to be walking trails; we’ve even talked with Tony Glover at the (Cullman County) Extension service about an arboretum. We’ve got a lot of plans that we’d like to put in place; we’re just trying to put it all together and make it happen.

“It’s not something that’s been thrown together, you know, last minute, as she suggested; it’s been a plan that we’ve worked long and hard on to come up with a plan that’s going to be successful. 

“I’d also say that we’ve also kept the family of the Burrows-Hamilton family involved along the way, letting them know what our plans are, and they’ve been supportive of the idea and like a lot of the things we’ve come up with. They’ve been kept in the loop throughout the whole process.”

Mayor Jacobs

Jacobs, in a Tribune interview last month (www.cullmantribune.com/2020/01/21/rv-park-more-planned-for-cullmans-burrow-property/), said that the RV park idea was proposed by an outside consultant and that it had been in the works for “a couple of years,” and added that Rock the South is “only one weekend a year. Obviously, you wouldn’t make the kind of investment that we’re going to make for just one weekend a year.”

Plans for development

Jacobs said the City will start with 50 RV sites on about 5 acres inside the entrance to the property, and that long-range plans include:

  • primitive camping
  • “glamping” – glamour camping in tents already set up with luxury appointments for guests
  • “tiny house-style” short-term rental cabins around the onsite ponds
  • two ponds: one for recreational swimming and the other stocked for fishing, with kayak rentals
  • walking and bicycle trails
  • golf cart rentals
  • playground
  • dog park

 

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W.C. Mann

craig@cullmantribune.com