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Bear Creek Education Center progresses

“The Back Country Horsemen have saved the day for this project.”

That’s the perspective of Rep. Johnny Mack Morrow, who has been a champion of Bear Creek Education Center in recent months. The center is currently under rehabilitation by the Rock Bridge Canyon Equestrian Park and the Town of Hodges, and it will soon be reopened to the public.

The Back Country Horsemen, along with Colbert County Cowboy Church, “have been very instrumental in helping us repair the main house,” said Tina Lawler, activities coordinator and public relations specialist for Rock Bridge Canyon. She said these two groups have also helped clean the kitchen, cut undergrowth and done other tasks to help prepare the grounds. “They’ve been a big big help.”

Volunteer groups have provided free labor, helping the education’s centers grants and other donated funds stretch further for materials.

“If not for the volunteers, it wouldn’t be possible,” Lawler said.

“The beneficiary, of course, will be future generations,” Morrow said.

Professional volunteers, Lawler said, have repaired the sewage system and heating and cooling units, as well as the water and gas lines.

Lawler and others are now getting a feel for what groups need out of a place like the education center. She is talking with Scouting groups, churches and the 4-H Club to determine how the Bear Creek Education Center can best suit everyone’ needs.

“We want to be something everybody can use,” Lawler said.

Lawler is tentatively planning a reunion fundraiser dinner in May at the center. “It’s going to be a dinner for anybody who has ever had any affiliation with the Bear Creek Education Center and Overton Farms,” she said. Everyone she has spoken with about the dinner is “excited, and I’ve had nothing but positive response.”

The education center will be up and running soon. Rain and the holidays have hindered progress, but Lawler said they are moving forward on final details

“We’ve had everything inspected,” Lawler said. “We’re going to have to get a few new appliances, so we’re working on that.”

The goal is to have the core of the center – the main house, cafeteria and bunkhouses – up and running by late spring. This represents Phase 1 of the whole project. By fall of 2017, Lawler said they hope to have the entire property, including Overton Farm and complete with more and improved parking, available for use.

“We’re excited about 2016 and about bringing it back and reviving it,” Lawler said.

Anyone interested helping with the efforts, or in booking the education center for a corporate event, women’s retreat or other activity, may call 205-935-3499. Those interested in the reunion dinner may also call this number.