By KATHRYN ACREE
Summer has blessedly arrived and perhaps you’re looking for a great way to spend the day? Consider making the short drive to Oak Mountain State Park. How lucky are we to have Alabama’s largest state park, nearly 10,000 acres, just a quick ride from the 280 corridor!
If it’s been a while since you’ve visited this wooded getaway, here are some of the park’s latest offerings:
The Oak Mountain Interpretive Center. More than a quaint museum, this center is a joint venture between the park, Samford University and Shelby County. Stop by the center located off Terrace Drive below the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center to check out exhibits on the history, geology and geography of the park, in addition to displays of native species such as snakes, fish, turtles and salamanders. The 2,500-square-foot facility offers a meeting room and teaching laboratory. It’s a cool place to go for both its air conditioning on a hot day and an interactive educational experience! Center hours are Wednesday – Saturday, 9:30 a.m. – 4 p.m. and Sunday, 1 p.m.- 5 p.m. There are no additional costs to visit the Interpretive Center.
Increase of trails throughout the park. Oak Mountain’s naturalist Emily Cohen said the park has worked steadily to increase the overall length of hiking, bicycle and equestrian trails the park offers by 3 to 4 miles in the last year. A detailed trail map is available for purchase in the main park office near the beach area.
Renovations complete on the BMX track. Boasting the oldest continuously running track in the National Bike League (NBL), the Oak Mountain BMX track is open with a new layout and design. Download a schedule of races to be held at the track this summer at http://www.alapark.com/OakMountain/Oak Mountain BMX/.
Summer nature programs. The park offers a variety of programs to appeal to the nature lover in you. Most events take place on Saturday mornings starting at 10 a.m. There is no charge beyond admission to the park. Here are the currently scheduled events for the summer:
6/18 -10 a.m., Maggie’s Glen Hike- North Trailhead
7/4- 10 a.m., Flag Making & Parade- Campground Pavilion
7/9- 7 p.m., Things That Go Bump in the Night- Campground Pavilion
7/23-10 a.m., Nature Scavenger Hunt- Treetop Nature Trail
8/6- 10 a.m., Alabama’s Biodiversity- Campground Pavilion
8/13-10 a.m., Mammals of Alabama, Campground Pavilion
8/20-10 a.m. – Animal Adaptations, Treetop Nature Trail
Watch baby bird feedings and learn more about Alabama’s birds. The Alabama Wildlife Rehabilitation Center (AWRC) located in the heart of the park off Terrace Drive has been strictly caring for native birds since 2009. The AWRC is a separate entity from the state park system, operating on private donations and federally licensed to rehabilitate and release orphaned or injured birds. Late spring and summer is the time for baby birds to make their appearance, and the AWRC expects to care for at least 900 baby birds this year! This is one of the few rehabilitation centers in the world that offer visitors the chance to see the baby birds being fed through a one-way glass. In addition, the AWRC hosts a free monthly family-oriented program called “Get Wild: Meet Alabama’s Birds” at 1 p.m. on the first Saturday of the month. Wild bird educators lead the program and usually feature one or more glove-trained education birds that live at the AWRC. Admission to the AWRC is free, but donations are always appreciated.
Park fees. It is also a good idea to note that an increase in the park entrance fee has gone into effect. Day rates are now $3 for adults, $1 for senior citizens 62 and over, $1 for children ages 6 -11 and free for children 5 and under. Yearly passes are available for purchase as well and are good for a calendar year starting with your purchase date. Passes are $100 for an individual, $175 for a family of 4 and $50 for senior citizens. For additional information on all aspects of the park, contact the main park office at 620-2520.