The following information was released by the Alabama Forestry Commission (AFC) last week.
“The AFC’s Claude D. Kelley Recreational Area and Little River State Forest will reopen to the public on March 17, 2018. It will be operational on weekends for day-use-only from Friday noon through Sunday at 5:00 pm. Hours of operation will be expanded in the near future. Camping sites will be available soon.”
The park closed indefinitely December 30, 2016 when AFC’s operating partner Ironman Outdoor Ministries could no longer afford to operate the park.
A lot of people will be glad to hear of the reopening. For decades, Little River has been the site of reunions, camp-outs, cook-outs, fishing, and swimming on hot summer days.
There is something at Claude D. Kelley Recreational Area and Little River State Forest for everyone, and the fees remain low.
5 years and under – Free
6 to 15 years – $1
16 to 64 years – $ 2
65 years or older – $ 1
Large Pavilion – $75 a day
Medium Pavilion – $50 a day
Small Pavilion – $15 a day
Consisting of approximately 2,100 acres of longleaf pine forest, it provides the general public with a setting for outdoor adventures such as hiking, camping, swimming, fishing, and horseback riding. All of these activities are available for a moderate entry fee.
Various events are held at the recreational area including family reunions, weddings, church functions such as Easter sunrise services, as well as Boy Scout and Girl Scout activities. Six pavilions in varying dimensions are rented out by the day to accommodate different group sizes.
For those with camper trailers, the park provides electricity and water hook-ups, and sewage hookups if necessary. There is unlimited space for the person who likes to “rough it” in the wild.
Along the trails there are plenty of opportunities to view ample wildlife, from deer and turkey, to rabbits and quail, even a bobcat or fox. Bird watchers find it an exceptional site to observe birds of all types.
Although hunting is not allowed on a large scale, Little River State Forest uniquely offers hunting to hunters with disabilities. The rules and regulations for this hunting privilege are controlled and monitored by the Alabama Department of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
The 25-acre lake provides a great place cool off on a hot day or simple afternoons swimming with friends and family. While swimming or sliding down the spillway is a favorite activity for children in the summer, the lake provides a nice spot for boating and canoeing year-round. Many anglers have caught their limit of fish here as well.
Originally privately-owned property, this land was deeded to the Alabama Forestry Commission in the early 1930s while the Great Depression was taking its toll on America. President Franklin D. Roosevelt implemented several ideas to help pull people out of the Depression and get back to work. One of these programs was the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), designed to help rebuild natural resources by planting trees and constructing park facilities.
In 1934, the CCC was sent to the Atmore area to build a public park that would eventually become known as Little River State Forest. Many of the facilities located on the grounds remain from the original construction by the CCC, including the office building, a cabin, and pavilions. The Gazebo Trail was also built by the CCC, as well as the lake. The soil removed from the lake bed was used to construct the dam and levee. Iron stone was collected from the area to create the spillway. This beautiful location has been used over the years by many people as a backdrop for photos and weddings.
Not only is the natural beauty important, but the overall health of the forest is a primary focus for the agency. A healthy forest provides the ultimate setting to educate the public about longleaf pine forests. Selective harvesting of timber and prescribed burning are just a few of the forest management tools being practiced on the forest to help accomplish this goal.