New spillway bridge was much-needed

Published 11:08 am Thursday, November 7, 2013

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

A few days after my 16th birthday in 2001, I got my first job at the golf course at Pelham’s Oak Mountain State Park.

That line of work brought some pretty early mornings for a kid still in high school, but it was well worth it getting to see some of the most beautiful sights in Shelby County day after day.

After getting off work each day, I often drove through the park and exited onto Alabama 119 on my way home, but something often kept me from doing so. As many who have frequented the park over the years are aware, a good rain would essentially block access across the old spillway near the park’s lake.

Because vehicles had to drive into the spillway – which was usually submerged in about a foot of water – elevated water levels often forced the park to close the route to traffic.

That was a problem especially for large vehicles such as campers, as the angle of the spillway sometimes prevented them from clearing the concrete feature.

But through a partnership between the state and Shelby County, the submerged spillway road is now a thing of the past.

A few weeks ago, state park, county, state and Pelham officials gathered at the park to celebrate the grand opening of a new spillway bridge. Now, drivers may not even notice they are traveling over where the spillway road used to be.

“Admissions at the back gate have already gone way up since they opened the spillway bridge,” Shelby County Manger Alex Dudchock told me.

With the explosive growth along U.S. 280 and in northern Shelby County over the years, I think this this project will be extremely beneficial. Now, those residents don’t have to worry about being unable to access the park through the Alabama 119 entrance after a heavy rain.

With cooler weather arriving, now is the perfect time to enjoy some breathtaking scenes in Alabama’s largest state park.

I am very happy to see that beauty is now more accessible than ever.

Neal Wagner is the City Editor for the Shelby County Reporter. He can be reached at