Top stories of 2013: Rock Bridge Canyon officially opens

 

Town, county and state officials held a ribbon cutting ceremony on Oct. 12 in Hodges to officially open Rock Bridge Canyon Equestrian Park.
Town, county and state officials held a ribbon cutting ceremony on Oct. 12 in Hodges to officially open Rock Bridge Canyon Equestrian Park.

After more than a year of construction and building and several years of planning, Rock Bridge Canyon Equestrian Park in Hodges held its official grand opening ceremony on Oct. 12.

Hodges Police Chief Mike Franklin, who serves as the director of the park, said he had been looking forward to the grand opening since they had first started plans for the park in 2005.

“I’m so proud of this park and what I know it will do for our area,” Franklin said.

“There are many people who have worked very hard to make this possible and I am so thankful to each person who has played a role in seeing Rock Bridge Canyon Equestrian Park become a reality.

“I’ve never had a group of people come together and give their support to a project like this group has. Our town council, the RCB Equestrian Park board members, the staff, the land owners, our Hodges Saddle Club members, our citizens – they have all played an important role in this process and we couldn’t have done it without them.”

Tina Lawler, who serves as the activities director for RBCEP, said three phases of construction on the park were laid out in 2012, and the ribbon cutting and grand opening celebrated the completion of the first two phases, which were the most crucial in being able to open to the public.

Phase I of the project, which was completed in early 2013, covered 15 miles of the trail, the day-use pavilion, two bathrooms and the exit and access roads.

Phase II of the project, which was completed in October, included the completion of all 34 pull-through campsites, including four hook-up campsites; 52 stalls; two bathhouses that contain toilets, sinks and showers for overnight campers; an additional 12 miles of trails; and the equestrian center, which houses the RBCEP office, check-in center and campsite store.

Phase III, which Lawler said will begin in 2014, will include an arena for entertainment, cabins and the remainder of the estimated 55 total miles of equestrian, walking, hiking and biking trails.

“It’s been a long time coming for us to get to this day, and I’m glad we’re finally here,” Hodges Mayor Ed Crouch said.

“The idea for this park came about after we did an economic development study to see what we could do to improve tourism and economic development in our area.

“It showed that an equestrian trail would be the way to go for Hodges, so that’s what we went with.

“This project was all about economic development for the local community and recreation and tourism for the local community, so I want the local community to be involved in this project through things like gift shops, restaurants, horse rentals – anything that could be associated with the park.

“This park is for the community, as well as the many visitors and riders we will have, and we think it will really give a boost to the local economy and the economy across Northwest Alabama.”

Since the grand opening, the park has hosted several benefit trail rides and community events and officials said 2014 is shaping up to be a great year for the park as well.

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