Oak Mountain State Park officially expands by more than 1,600 acres

Published 1:44 pm Tuesday, January 4, 2022

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By MICHELLE LOVE | Staff Writer

Pelham’s Oak Mountain State Park is about to get a little bigger. The park has officially acquired an additional 1,644 acres of land purchased from EBSCO Industries, a Birmingham-based information services company.

The expansion became official after the property was acquired by Alabama Forever Wild last week on Wednesday, Dec. 29.

This purchase will increase the size of Alabama’s largest state park to more than 11,000 acres, and expand it further toward the Chelsea and Greystone communities on U.S.  280.

According to Chris Blankenship, the commissioner of the Alabama Department of Conservation, said the property estimates to a $12.5 million purchase, and will benefit not only Shelby County, but also the Birmingham metro area.

Blankenship said he was very grateful to the Alabama Forever Wild Board for seeing the potential in the property and making the acquisition happen. He also expressed gratitude towards the EBSCO family.

“The EBSCO family that owned the property, they have been very gracious through this whole process,” he said. “They really wanted to see the property be protected from development. They have really been great and it’s great to see a group like that that had a piece of property that had a lot of development potential, but they also saw the importance of having green space and what that means to the quality of life in Alabama.”

The stretch of property includes features like King’s Chair and Belcher Tract, which are popular areas frequently visited by hikers and nature enthusiasts. The Belcher Tract sits adjacent to Oak Mountain State Park, from its existing boundary to U.S. 280, near the Greystone and Chelsea communities.

“This will do many positive things for the park and the public in general” OMSP Superintendent Kelly Ezell said in a previous interview. “It will protect the absolutely beautiful view-shed from King’s Chair and provide many opportunities for people in the Birmingham-metropolitan area to recreate, especially as our attendance continues to grow.”

The acquisition of land has been a few years in the making. It began as a nomination of the Alabama Forever Wild Land Trust to receive the property from Dell Brooke, EBSCO Industries board member and daughter of Elton B. Stephens, founder of EBSCO Industries, and Dixon Brooke, Jr., EBSCO Industries board member and former president and CEO of EBSCO Industries, in 2019. The Forever Wild board unanimously voted to acquire the property in 2020.

Greg Lein, the director of Alabama State Parks Division, said the property will be managed by OMSP’s park staff as an addition to the park’s established property.

“We expect to work up plans with the Forever Wild Board over this next year for the long-term management of the land,” Lein said. “We anticipate this include an expansion of the existing trail systems within Oak Mountain.  While the new land does access two public roads, it would be premature to speculate on additional entrances to the park.”

This article will update as more information becomes available.