BEAR CREEK - The date that both campers as well as town officials and residents have been waiting for will take place on Monday, April 15, when Twin Forks park and campsites will reopen after being closed down 10 weeks for repairs and renovations.
Mayor Tammie Batchelor made the official announcement at the town council’s regular meeting, Monday, April 1, and the announcement was NOT an April Fools joke.
“It’s a big day for the town of Bear Creek,” Mayor Batchelor pointed out. “We are finally working to get things back the way they should be, and it’s going to be better than it’s ever been.”
The announcement of the opening of the campsites came with several other rules and regulations for campers to know as the date quickly approaches.
After at least 40 minutes of discussion among council members and the town’s attorney Cole Christopher, Council member Daniel Green made an extended motion, filled with many details campers need to know.
The motion was seconded by Jimmy Preston and all present council members voted in favor. Council member James Loden was absent from the meeting.
The extended motion leading to the vote started with the reopening day of Twin Forks park being April 15.
Town officials started accepting applications from campers on Wednesday, April 3 at 8 a.m. with the deadline being Thursday, April 11, at 5 p.m.
Campers are required to put down a $300 deposit for their spots, when making the application, which they can pick up from clerk Jamie Green at the water department. When the form is completed, campers must leave the form with Jamie. The deposit will go toward the rent on their spot.
On Thursday, April 11, at 6 p.m., a drawing will be held at the police department for campers to choose their spots. All camping spots will be drawn except six, which will be used as daily spots.
Twin Forks will feature 81 total campsites, that will be divided into 40 spots that can rented from one to 30 days, 35 spots for long-term camping, which is 11 months, six spots that can be rented for no more than one week or weekend at a time and six spots that can be rented daily, according to Green’s motion.
If more people come to the drawing than the number of spots actually drawn, those campers will receive a refund of their $300 deposit and be placed on a waiting list.
“We just want to make sure the people we are putting in the drawing a serious about a spot,” Daniel Green noted.
Available camping spots will be three spots of premium priced at $425 a month plus tax;
Medium spots at $375 plus tax and the inside or lower spots at $325 plus tax, Green continued.
Daily fees will be $25 per day plus tax. Weekend rates are $37.75 per night plus tax.
Weekly rates, which include five nights or more will be $25 plus tax per night, even through the weekend.
Primitive camping will be $15 plus tax per night, Green said.
Twin Forks camping will be closed the month of February, according to the motion.
In order for Twin Forks campsites and fields to be reopened, Mayor Batchelor urged more participation from town officials to get the job done.
“This is the problem I’m getting into with everyone on weekends,” Batchelor began. “Nobody wants to work.”
Mayor Batchelor pointed out that only a few have been showing up to help do work at the park, such as renovations and repairs that must be done to prepare for the April 15 opening date.
“Not another employee showed up,” the mayor pointed out. “I understand they are tired. I am tired too. I don’t want to put it on a Saturday and it be put on three people.
“We don’t have a choice. We have to get that campground open,” Batchelor said. “It is keeping these employees a job. Everybody’s tired, but everybody has got to work.
“Everybody has got to be willing to work on Saturday...because nobody is wanting to work on Saturday,” Batchelor continued. “...We’ve got to get this done.
“I understand about overtime, but we have to get some help. If it means drawing off the credit line, then we are going to have to...Y’all just would not believe the stuff we have gotten into over there,” the mayor said.
Since the park was temporarily closed March 1, the town has only been able to work two employees, who have faced delays in work due to weather, Park and Recreation Director Andrew Welborn indicated.
The town has been able to hire some part time help, but workers are still doing all they can to fix the town’s water leaks and road issues, along with doing the needed park renovations, town officials said.
“The water department guys, as long as there’s nothing pressing, we have been using them just like they are full time park and rec trying to get this done,” Mayor Batchelor added.
Mayor Batchelor expressed excitement at the reopening of Twin Forks campsites, which the town council voted to temporarily close March 1, in order to do a major electrical overhaul as well as replacing old worn out signs, patching roads, replacing 40 to 50 percent of the water lines, landscaping and beautification work such as painting bath houses, and general work throughout the property.
“There were hazards over there...that really affected the safety of the people,” the mayor said.
“We uncovered a lot of equipment over there that was buried,” she added. “We’ve uncovered a bunch of equipment we will be able to use over there.”
Mayor Batchelor stressed that none of the renovations or repair work has disturbed any wildlife or their habitat, but the project rather helped give things a fresher, updated look.
The renovations are being done to bring the campsites and park up to code with requirements from the Bear Creek Development Authority, which falls under the Tennessee Valley Authority.
The town of Bear Creek is working to make sure all of the park area is up to code and renovations made in approval with BCDA, so a pending contact between the town and BCDA can be approved.
In fact, a separate article in today’s edition details the signing of a new contract between the town of Bear Creek and BCDA.
The contract is based on the large amount of work that has already been done at the park and the major improvements that have been made.
There are, however, other projects that still need to be done, but nothing of the magnitude that would prevent the park from reopening.
“I have been told by BCDA that as long as we’re making good, positive progress, they are fine with us reopening it, but we need to be close to done,” Mayor Batchelor had earlier said.
Efforts are underway to repair a water leak that has recently been reported at bathhouse #1, town officials reported.
Welborn, who works with the park and rec and street departments, said the town has not just been faced with water leaks but electrical issues. Chester Barber was hired by the town to replace the older electrical circuits, some of which were live wires, Welborn said.
All of the electrical work has been redone, but was a project town employees didn’t expect to run into, Welborn added.
Mayor Batchelor noted the town was very thankful to be able to reopen the park on April 15, with a majority of the major renovations completed.
After the park reopens, a few minor repairs such as faucet and toilet replacements in the bathhouses will be done, officials said.
“We are very thankful,” she said, “because it had actually been told to our clerk that had we not taken the stand we had taken, and that I had not been so persistent in trying to get this done, that we would not had been given a contract.”
The town council took action at their last council meeting to purchase a mobile unit to be placed as an office area at the park entrance. This is where campers will register, pay their fees, pick up maps, etc.
The mobile unit measures 12X28, said Mayor Batchelor, adding she could donate some office equipment for the facility.
The town approved to finance the unit at six months at no interest of $994.81, including delivery and set up, the mayor explained.
Mayor Batchelor named Kathy Preston as manager for the Twin Forks Campsites, replacing Deb Burrow who resigned recently.
Preston will work out of the mobile unit office, collecting camp fees, issuing BCDA permits as well as an overall management of the grounds.
Preston also noted that campsites would be arranged in a color coded and numbered method, making sure campers’ spots were clearly marked and could be easily found.
Mayor Batchelor pointed out that Preston has the right personality for the job of campsite manager.
“I don’t think there could have been a better person chosen for the position of campground manager,” Mayor Batchelor pointed out
“Kathy is such a people person,” she said. “I feel like from the applications that I had gone through, she had the office experience and she had the people skills, that we needed to be able to enforce the rules.
“She is very personable, yet she is very stern. She has been right in there with us with her sleeves rolled up, working right along with us,” the mayor said.
“She will take up the money. She will be accountable for the money she takes up, and she knows she has to get it to Jamie,” Batchelor continued. “She will also be very cautious and very observant about the power (campers) are using and things are not being abused and people are not doing things they should not be doing.
“I see positive things taking place and I see that the pride of the employees of the town of Bear Creek have taken during this process,” the mayor explained.
“We have succeeded in doing what needed to be done and had to be done and it is just a much safer, cleaner and well managed place.”
The mayor stressed the new Twin Forks campsites will be a family friendly campground.
“It’s not going to be like it was,” Batchelor emphasized. “There will be rules, and the rules will be enforced.
“People who do not want to follow the rules, they will be removed. They will be asked to leave,” the mayor continued to stress.
The council also set the fees to be charged for use of the ballfields at Twin Forks Park.
After several minutes of discussion, Council Member Chris Gillum made the motion for the town to charge $125 for one field, $200 for both fields, the town operating the concession stands and donating 20 percent of the proceeds to the charity renting the fields.
Daniel Green seconded the motion, and all voted in favor.
Mayor Batchelor commended those with the Freedom Fest softball game that recently used the fields, for cleaning up after themselves and not leaving a mess for the town. The game was held to raise money to purchase fireworks for the event.
“All we had to do was empty garbage,” the mayor said. “They did great. They were very respectful.”
Daniel Green made a motion authorizing a resolution calling for Mayor Batchelor sign for the town to enter into contract with BCDA on Friday, April 5. Jimmy Preston seconded the motion, and all voted in favor.
Terms of the contract stipulate that if any part of the contract is violated, all BCDA/TVA would have to do is give the town a 30 day written notice and they can take the property away, the mayor told council members.
“What considers the default,” spoke out Daniel Green. “As long as we’re abiding by the rules, they can’t just take it.”
Attorney Cole Christopher spoke up, giving examples of such violations, as allowing campers to set up a permanent residence, allowing wastewater to run into the lake, if the campers pile up junk cars, etc.
“If we abide by the rules of BCDA,” Green said, with Christopher interjecting, “I don’t think they can pop you on a little technical rule, but if you have material breach (of contract), I think they can get you.
“They can’t do what they did before,” Christopher added.
“What I’m saying is all long as we’re staying within rules, they can’t just come and swipe it out from under us,” Green said.
“We may pour another $40,000, $50,000 into this campground next year, and I just want to make sure they can’t say, ‘You know what, we think we’ll take this campground back.’”
“You are locked into that contract unless you breach it,” Christopher responded.
“We just have to be compliant,” the mayor pointed out.
A camper spoke from the audience that the method of payment should be established.
The council decided that all campsite fees must be paid by either check or money order. NO cash transactions will be permitted.
See complete story in the Northwest Alabamian.