Dudchock: Equestrian campground opening exceeds expectations

By BRAD GASKINS / Staff Writer

COLUMBIANA – Last weekend’s grand opening of a new equestrian campground at Oak Mountain State Park exceeded expectations, Shelby County Manager Alex Dudchock said.

“When the announcement went out that the facility would be open starting (last) Friday night, we had no idea how many people would actually call and reserve and come to camp,” Dudchock told county commissioners during their regularly-scheduled meeting May 23.

“I’m proud to say eight of the 12 slips were rented the first night,” he said.

Dudchock made his comments after Brian Hilson, president and CEO of the Birmingham Business Alliance, spoke briefly to commissioners during public comment.

The equestrian campground is located off the first entrance to the left after passing through the main ticket booth at the park’s prime entrance.

The campground features water, sewer and power, and camp sites can be rented for one night to two weeks.

“This is a direct generator of lodging tax,” Dudchock said.

Dudchock also commented on last weekend’s XTERRA Southeast Championships held at Oak Mountain.

Race winner Conrad Stoltz, of South Africa, said in national and international TV interviews that Oak Mountain was the top course he’s raced. The list includes courses from Austria to China.

Stoltz is an 8-time XTERRA Pro Series champion and a 4-time XTERRA World Champion.

“He said the No. 1 course in the world was Oak Mountain State Park,” Dudchock said. “He said that straight up without prompting.”

The county is looking to land another major outdoor competition for the park.

Shelby County would like to be the Southeastern location for the Extreme Fitness Challenge, Dudchock said.

Hilson, president and CEO of the BBA, spoke on the importance of the seven counties comprising the greater Birmingham area.

“We understand Shelby County and appreciate it very much,” Hilson said.

He said the 7-county area should be thought of as one regional area with individual parts.

“Columbiana, for example, is one of those,” Hilson said. “Alex and I have talked about that, and I think we have a very good understanding of the strengths and assets that Shelby County provides every day to the Birmingham region and the entire state.”

Hilson said all parties involved from the 7-county area understand they’re working for the same thing.

“I’ve told a lot of people that what’s happened in Birmingham and Jefferson County in recent years certainly is not good for the area and the region, and certainly is not representative of who we are and what we’re going to be,” Hilson said.

“I think that a lot of the good things about the Birmingham area have been overshadowed by some of the negative things that have occurred in recent years. We’ve got to move beyond that, hopefully quickly and effectively, and market this area.”

Dudchock praised Hilson for his leadership and said he’s received positive feedback about Hilson after Hilson’s recent speech at a South Shelby Chamber of Commerce meeting.

Hilson said Dudchock is well known and respected in economic development circles across the state.

“Even though he’s not an everyday economic developer, he still does quite a bit of that,” Hilson said before jokingly adding, “We just can’t get him to speak up.”