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Reps tour horse trail

HODGES – The Rock Bridge Canyon Equestrian Park has garnered lots of interest in the past year from community members and saddle clubs alike, but this past week, representatives from several congressional offices visited the park so they could see the renowned tourist attraction first-hand.
Rep. Johnny Mack Morrow organized a special horseback and walking tour on Tuesday for representatives from U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt’s office, U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions’ office, and U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby’s office as well as Probate Judge Barry Moore and Sen. Roger Bedford.
The representatives were able to tour the canyon and see all the progress that has been made so far, including Phase I of the project that covers 15 miles of the trail, the day-use pavilion, two bathrooms and the exit and access roads, some of which are still in the construction phase.
“The Equestrian Park in Hodges has the ability to revolutionize tourism in North Alabama and especially in Franklin County,” Morrow said.
“We want our federal congressmen especially to understand just how vital and important this project is to tourism in our state and in the areas they represent and what a true treasure it is.
“As a state representative, I know how important it is to get first-hand information about a project so that when issues come up that will directly impact that project, I can speak with certainty and clarity about them and better support the project.
“We want our federal representatives to be fully knowledgeable about this equestrian park and what the town is working so hard to accomplish because we’ll need their full support when it comes to things like grants and dealing with different organizations.”
Dana Lee Jennings, who will soon be retiring as the president and CEO of the Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association, was present for the meeting that followed the canyon tour at the Hodges Community Center.
Jennings expressed her interest in the project and her hopes that each representative would be on board with the project as well.
“Alabama Mountain Lakes is with you all the way on this,”” Jennings told Hodges officials on Tuesday.
“When I was first introduced to this project, I got so excited because of the potential this offers for tourism in North Alabama.
“The equestrian movement isn’t something that is happening just in Alabama, it’s happening all over the county.
“More and more people are getting involved in pleasure riding, which is considered one of the top 10 quiet sports, along with things like hiking, biking, canoeing and spelunking, so this is a big recreational activity that will garner a lot of interest.”
Hodges Mayor Ed Crouch expressed his hope that all the official who were gathered for the meeting could work together to make finishing the equestrian park a priority.
“If we cooperate and work together as a team, I don’t think there’s a way we can fail with this project,” Crouch said. “There is just too much potential for it to be great.”
Right now, officials are still finishing up aspects of Phase I of the project and are planning to get started on Phase II, which includes the equestrian center and the campsites.
By the time the project is complete, the park will include over 55 miles of equestrian, walking, hiking and biking trails; a 160-acre campground; an equestrian center and an arena for entertainment.