Spotlight on Chilton County: Community Development

Improvements to downtown areas and parks are underway in Chilton County

Higgins Ferry Park has a boat launch, pavilion and playground.

The Chilton County Commission is working on plans to expand or replace its courthouse, with a feasibility study in progress and also a consultant-led assessment of departmental needs for office space.

Parks are a priority for the county. It has spent more than $200,000 for improvements at Minooka Park, adding 35 RV campsites, a playground, new restrooms and an activity center. “We are very proud of the park,” says Commission Chairman Jimmie Hardee. “We are working on more tourism for the county.”

The county has also made renovations to Higgins Ferry Park on Lake Mitchell.

The city of Clanton has created an entertainment district downtown. On the first Friday of each month, specific streets are closed to allow food trucks to supplement the menus of local restaurants. Also, Corner Park downtown provides a venue for music and other events in the district.

Officials hope the zone will generate economic development and help local businesses prosper, says Clanton Mayor Jeff Mims.

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“Clanton is open for business, and we are working on a lot of things,” Mims says. The city has already attracted new businesses, he says, noting that he and the city council are “all on the same page to build the city.”

The city has a master plan for its parks, recently hiring a new director of parks and recreation. Its popular sports complex includes venues for football, baseball, soccer, tennis and pickleball team sports, walking trails and picnic facilities. Plans call for adding a splash pad to supplement the city-owned swimming pool, a dog park and batting cages for baseball. The city also owns and maintains Jack Hayes Field, a baseball facility. The city hopes to build a permanent stage for musical and other events.

This year the Chilton County Peach Festival, held in June, celebrated its 75th year with pageants, a cookoff, an art show, parade, auction, live music, fireworks and more. The city and chamber also hosted the inaugural Peach CityFest with live music, food trucks, vendors, children’s activities and after-hours shopping at local businesses.

The Peach Jam Jubilee brings musical acts and more to the area.

The Jemison City Council is working on upgrades to its downtown city park with sidewalks, streetlights and landscaping, says Mayor Eddie Reed. The project is part of the city’s downtown renovation efforts, which have attracted a boutique and an ice cream shop to the city.

The city of Thorsby just celebrated a successful Strawberry Festival, says Mayor Robert Hight. “The city is grateful for the opportunity to host the event and would like to thank all the volunteers involved for all their hard work. We look forward to and are proud to be hosting this event in 2023.”

In the town of Maplesville, a second storm shelter is underway, and in 2021, all the roads were paved, officials say.

Chilton County schools offer an array of technical programs ranging from auto body repair to HVAC to STEM and pharmacy, with plans for a utility lineman course and one for those interested in teaching, says Dr. Shannon Walker, career technical supervisor.

“We are responding to local business and industry to provide the programs needed to give our students opportunities,” she says. “As for the education courses, our goal is to spark an interest in students in education and staying in our county. Both programs address two big needs in our community.”

COVID-19 shut down clinical teaching in the system’s health science programs, but that also will start up again soon, Walker says. Each program in the career technical center has its own advisory council, plus there’s one for the school as a whole.

The center offers work credentialing, and students also can take dual enrollment courses at Jefferson State Community College’s Chilton-Clanton campus.

The city of Clanton is also working to show high school students the various careers available in the area. For example, the city held a special workforce day in which 45 industries and businesses came to inform students on what the area has to offer after graduation, Mims says. This will likely continue about twice a year, he says.

“Not all of our high school students are headed to college, and there are so many opportunities available here,” he says. “We recognize that we already have many assets and we just want to expand those. In fact, many of our students were hired that day. This helps us retain our students here as they graduate.”

This article appeared in the August 2022 issue of Business Alabama.

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