HES students enjoy fun, food, fishin’ at Little River State Forest

Huxford student Arlayzia Dailey prepares to reel in a catfish.

News Staff Writer

A group of Huxford Elementary School (HES) students got an interactive lesson in fishing last week in a prelude to what will be the latest in a string of attempts to restore the park in 2,100-acre Little River State Forest to its former glory. Or to maybe take the restoration a little farther.
“I’d like to see it restored beyond its old glory,” said Alabama Senator Greg Albritton of Atmore. “I’ve got big plans. I’ve got to convert all these folks and all those folks, and there’s a lot of work to do between here and yonder. When it comes to state parks and recreation, South Alabama has been ignored for a long time.”
Albritton joined professional fishermen, high school fishermen and representatives of a couple private concerns and numerous state agencies and quasi-agencies in conducting the first such event at the park in several years.
HES Principal Leah Fuqua, two teachers and a couple parents accompanied 34 fourth graders to the park, which was in pristine condition compared to recent years. And, while the youngsters enjoyed hot dogs, hamburgers and Pepsi products, most kept casting their eyes on the 25-acre lake, freshly stocked with catfish, in which they would eventually cast their lines.
Many of the children had never been fishing before and were excited to try the sport. Their confidence was bolstered by safety lessons and casting instructions from Paul Elias, Chris Lane, Russ Lane and other Major League Fishing Angler Association (MLFAA) competitors, each of whom moved along the banks of the water to assist the students.
The young anglers also got help from 10 members of the J.U. Blacksher (JUB) School fishing team.
JUB Principal Donald Baggett recalled the fun he and his classmates shared when the park was in its heyday.
“That was a big thing every year,” he said. “I remember being in kindergarten, on up to third and fourth grade, and we would come here to have our end-of-year party. It had a playground and things like that.”
Chris Erwin of Alabama Forestry Foundation, when asked why organizers chose the middle of August for such an event, said one time is as good as any.
“Every day is the right day to get kids outside fishing,” Erwin explained. “When you talk about planting a tree — the best time was 10 years ago, the next-best time is today. That’s the same with getting kids outside — the best time was when they were little, the next-best time is today.”
Although fishing was the main event, the students also got to enjoy a presentation by the Auburn University Raptor Center.
When someone suggested that the children probably enjoyed their escape from the daily school routine as much as anything, Albritton pointed out that they really hadn’t escaped.
“This is school,” he said. We have Huxford and Uriah [site of JUB]. They’re close in proximity, divided by county lines and other things, like the forest is. [It lies partly in Escambia County, partly in Monroe County]. We’re trying to show they can come together.
“I’m just excited that we’re here and we’re doing this. It’s unification; it’s coming together. We have a lot of people participating. I’m very excited.”
The state senator said the recovery and rehabilitation of the state forest and park is a beginning and an end.
“This is not just the beginning, it’s the culmination of between what hurricane damage and our own handling of matters did,” he explained. “This is an indication that we have come a long way and proof we are now on the cusp of moving further. So far, I have a lot of people in the same boat with me.”