Thursday, November 17, 2011

Friends of the Preserve at little River Canyon N.P. by John Dersham

I have been honored to be the first President of the Friends of the Preserve at Little River Canyon N.P. We began a year ago last March and have been active in establishing our 501(c)3 and getting our bylaws and articles of incorporation done. During the course of the last year we have attended multiple festivals, trade shows and exhibitions to gather members and to discuss the attributes of a “friend” organization as it relates to our National Preserve. There are many friends groups for different National Parks. Many of them are quite well established. I am glad we now have one to offer the public at Little River Canyon.
Here is our Mission Statement:
Little River Canyon is a National Preserve located on Lookout Mountain in northeast Alabama. The Friends of the Preserve at Little River, in partnership with the National Park Service, works to support the highest level of preservation, protection, management and interpretation of the natural, cultural and historic resources of approximately 13,000 national park acres.
On October 22nd, we had our first annual member meeting and picnic at Lynn Overlook on the canyon rim. It was a fun day of music food and great conversation. On November 5th, we had our first annual Run the Rim 5K race. There were 65 entrees in this fun and scenic fund raiser along the rim of Little River Canyon.
Friends groups help with providing assistance in efforts to help keep the park clean, trails trimmed and they help with educational services to the travelers visiting the park. Becoming a member of the Friends of the Preserve is a way to support the maintenance, protection and beauty of our beautiful National Preserve. As a member you will be invited to participate in events hosted by the Friends of the Preserve that both celebrate the beauty of our park and also provide the badly needed human resources to help make our park a more valued and enjoyable destination for our visitors and also our local people who enjoy all the wonderful things to do at LRC.
If you have not been to Little River Canyon in the last month, you need to visit the beautiful new boardwalk trail. You enter it at the parking lot at Little River Falls. We should be very proud of the constant improvement the National Park service is dedicating to our preserve. Many Thanks to John Bundy and his staff at Little River Canyon N.P. We are so fortunate to have the wonderful N.P in our backyard.
To learn more about Friends of the Preserve at Little River Canyon go to our website at or visit us on Facebook at Friends of the Preserve at Little River Canyon.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

In Hard Times People Still Travel by John Dersham

In a time when the unemployment rate is high and the underemployed is even higher, people are still taking trips. Even in bad overall economic times when it seems most all factions of the economy are down, tourism is continuing to perform at a rate well above the economy. There is an inherent desire among most people to get away from the daily routine and go elsewhere. For us in DeKalb County we are very fortunate to have an extremely high level of appeal to leisure travelers from nearby cities that just want to get away from it all for a few days. We are a weekend tourist destination. Due to the fact we are a two-three hour drive for eleven million people we are a great choice for two, three and four day mini trips. The downturn in the economy beginning in 2008 coupled with higher gas prices has contributed to people taking trips of less distance for a shorter time. This has helped us in many ways due to our close distance, low costs, friendly hospitality and an easy place to get around in, once here.
Last week I attended the State Tourism quarterly meetings. These meeting are always very informative and are a valuable tool for staying abreast on current trends in tourism. They help us know what to promote, how to promote and they give us a good sense of forecasting the upcoming year. In the state of Alabama, tourism dollars spent in our state have more than doubled in the last eight years. Much of this can be attributed to Director Lee Sentel and his staff who have consistently engineered award winning marketing programs to lure tourists to our state. Last week Lee told us the State of Alabama has had a fantastic year and the badly affected Alabama Gulf Coast had a banner year.
More and more cities, counties, states and the federal government are placing a lot more focus on tourism as the proof of economic development thru tourism has become an all star. The proof of our successful numbers both in collecting tax revenues and in creating jobs has created a focus by legislators at all levels to find a way to enhance tourism to the United States and to our local destinations.
This fall in DeKalb County has been a banner season. Colorfest in Mentone had its highest attendance in many years contributed by combining the Mentone Areas Art Council and Mentone Area Preservation Association to form a committee headed by Neal Whitt to re-invent the festival. It worked! Beginning in early October and still happening currently, guests to our county on fall foliage vacations is very high. We anticipate stable tourism through Thanksgiving then typically we have a soft time in total but will have good crowds at Cloudmont Ski and Golf resort in Mentone.