I love to see people making things happen in our community. We have such a great area and our tourists love us…but we need more to keep them here longer. The average visitor in DeKalb County will spend over $400 at day if they spend the night. They buy lodging, food, gas, retail purchases and they go to attractions. Our average overnight visitor, if they are here as a tourist, spends two nights on average. Just think if we could get them to spend three or four nights. The tax revenue would increase rapidly. Bill and Angie Shugart, founders of One World Adventure in 2008, are involved in a whole lot of things in DeKalb that perpetuate our long term success in growing our tourism expenditures but also in contributing to the health, physical fitness and education of our young people in our community and visitors. One World Adventure offers a host of current endeavors that include summer adventure camps on Little River. These camps offer an outdoor experience for youth, things such as Kayaking and canoeing, interpretive hikes, rappelling and climbing. The cost structure is based on income, affording all kids the opportunity for a great outdoor education and an extremely fun time while school is out. My granddaughters attended this last summer and they came back with great stories about the things they learned and the fun they had. In today’s culture many children do not get to participant in many outdoor activities other than organized sports programs.
During the school year, One World Adventure provides environmental education outreach to FPMS. Three years ago they started volunteering in Mrs. Baker’s Wildlife Elective class. Now in its third year, they go into the school once, sometimes twice weekly to teach students about Alabama’s waterways, the many uses of water and water conservation. On the school campus they have added a native plant garden and compost station and are in the process of adding rain barrels.
Throughout the year, the One World Adventure Little River Waterkeeper program is active in educating our community about water and habitat conservation, responsible outdoor recreation and sustainable economic growth. The program also works with local government land agencies such as forestry, coop extension, and our public land agencies to monitor our river for pollution, working with farmers and timber companies to prevent or lessen their impact on the watershed.
One World Adventure has a large project in the planning stage for our community. The old Quinn Hotel will become the WM Beck III Discovery Museum. The 17,000 sq. ft. historic building will be the year around home of One World Adventure and a place for quality out of school time for area youth. The center will be themed to accommodate natural light, green technology and interpretive nature and art exhibits. There will be an outdoor climbing wall on the East facing wall, green rooftop, and outdoor retail space. Not only will the center be a downtown hub for the community and its youth, visitors will find an incredible facility filled with wonder that will enhance their experience in our area. The project has a 1.5 million dollar price tag. Currently the process of raising funds for the project is underway with a projected opening date of April 2016.
In addition, the Shugart’s are intimately involved in a project called the Lookout Mountain Gateway Trail Project that would connect the cities of Fort Payne and Mentone to a top of the mountain trail system, including new trails but also using existing trails already in place at DeSoto S.P. and Little River Canyon N.P. and the Wildlife Management area. This multipurpose trail system would be for hiking and biking with some areas that are for equestrian use too. With the tremendous total length of this system it is estimated we could add an extra day or two to the length of our visitors stay in DeKalb. The trail will have points in various locations to park and get on and off the trail. It is our goal to have well marked trails that serve our local population with a great access to a quality a physical fitness platform for our community and a place for the visitors to spend multiple days feeling comfortable they can find their way. This project was the result of a Gateway Communities seminar hosted by the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) to look for projects to help rural areas grow and develop in the area of overall increase of quality of life. The Shugart’s, myself and a host of city and county leaders are on the planning and developing committee for this project. Our group attended an ARC meeting in Abingdon, VA last January to kick off the program.
I want to pass along my thanks to the Shugart’s and to all of you who are working toward improving the quality of life for all of us in DeKalb County.
To learn more about One World Adventure and all their activities, please visit their website at oneworldadventureco.com