Group evaluates condition of Overton Farm

HODGES – Rep. Johnny Mack Morrow said as soon as he heard about the deteriorating conditions at Overton Farm, a long-beloved historical site near Hodges, he has been on a mission to make sure the property is properly taken care of.

On Friday, Morrow and several others took a tour of the Overton Farm property to see what kind of repairs would be necessary after the property was left vacant following its closing in October of 2013.

“I don’t think you could find many people around here who don’t have some great memories from Overton Farm,” Morrow said.

“This place is special to many Franklin County residents, and I don’t think they would be too happy to know that the place has been padlocked and restricted to the public and isn’t being properly maintained.”

Morrow sent a letter last week to current Bear Creek Development Authority board chairman Ed Crouch to inquire what the board planned to do with the property.

He said the visit to the property on Friday was a follow up to the concerns he addressed in that letter.

“Overton Farm is on the National Historic Registry, which is a designation it received after myself and a group of students from Northwest-Shoals Community College, including Mike Nichols, worked to restore it in the 1970s,” Morrow said.

“It has been a place to help educate our young people over the years and is a historic treasure, so if the BCDA isn’t able to maintain the property anymore, I believe they should find another group who is willing and able to take on that responsibility.”

Morrow said he had been in contact with officials with the Rock Bridge Canyon Equestrian Park in Hodges who have expressed an interest in taking over the responsibility of caring for the property and making it part of their facilities.

“I think this is an excellent option,” Morrow said.

“The officials with the equestrian trail will be able to maintain the property and use it to further promote tourism in our area.”

Crouch, who also serves as the mayor of the town of Hodges, said he also feels strongly about the property and he realizes the value and impact the site has had over the years.

For many years, Overton Farm was a popular field trip destination for Franklin County and Russellville City school classes. The site features an old, shot-gun style main house with several different rooms, a barn, a well, and a smokehouse that were all restored back to what they would have originally looked like in the early 1800s.

“The schools used to use Overton Farms and utilize the property for educational purposes, but they stopped using the facility several years ago,” Crouch said.

“Even after the schools quite using the facility, I kept Overton Farm open for the past four years. We did all we could to make cuts and still keep it operating, but we kept losing money and our auditor finally said we had to close it down.”

Crouch, as mayor of Hodges, said he was well aware of RBCEP’s interest in the property, and he would have to abstain from any voting on the issue as a BCDA board member because of the conflict of interest.

“It is completely up to the BCDA board what they do with Overton Farm,” Crouch said.

“But I do agree with Rep. Morrow that something needs to be done so the property doesn’t just sit there and deteriorate. It could be well-used by Rock Bridge Canyon and could be a great asset to the trails and the park.”

Morrow said he planned attend the BCDA board meeting on Jan. 31 where he hoped board members would take action on this issue.

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