Oak Mountain launches facility upgrades

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

Oak Mountain State Park will play a major role in saving the state of Alabama more than $9 million over the next 15 years, according to officials with the Alabama State Parks.

Members of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and officials with Oak Mountain State Park, the city of Pelham and Johnson Controls outlined a multi-year energy efficiency program during a meeting at the state park Jan. 6.

Through the energy efficiency program, Johnson Controls will work with Oak Mountain and five other state parks to improve insulation, lighting, water and heating and cooling systems at the parks’ facilities. The project will also upgrade toilets and plumbing systems, will weatherize building seals and will include telecommunications upgrades.

“What a great way to ring in the new year. We want to have maximum efficiency at our facilities,” said Hobbie Sealy, Alabama’s assistant conservation commissioner. “We’re doing much more than replacing lightbulbs.”

The program is the result of a yearlong audit by Johnson Controls, and the upgrades at the state park facilities should be completed by September, Sealy said.

“This is a legacy we are very proud of,” Sealy said. “We will reduce our energy use and our carbon footprint.”

By making the facilities at Oak Mountain more energy efficient, Johnson Controls will also make the facilities more comfortable while saving the park money, said Chris Markert, regional vice president and general manager for the company.

“This will be a major energy reduction at the park,” Markert said. “It’s going to make the environment in the lodges, the facilities and the cabins much more comfortable.

“It will be a much more enjoyable experience,” he added.

Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, who is on the state’s legislative committee on state parks, called Oak Mountain State Park a “jewel” for Shelby County, and said the program will save the park money while improving the environment.

“This is really a wonderful project,” Ward said. “I’ve been to some businesses that have done this (energy efficiency project) before, and you can immediately see the economic benefit and the environmental benefit.”

Pelham Mayor Don Murphy praised the state and Shelby County officials for working with Pelham on the project.

“This state park means a lot to the city of Pelham,” Murphy said. “We are tickled to death to have this park in the city of Pelham.

“I know what it means for local and state government to work together for one cause, and that cause is the people,” Murphy added.