Barnett named first director of TOP Trails park
by Jim Smothers
TALLADEGA — Mic Barnett said he was looking forward to the challenge of being the first director of TOP Trails park Tuesday after the meeting in which the board voted 4-0 to hire him.

Barnett said he retired from the Air Force after 24 years and he and his wife, the former Dot Wills, could have moved wherever they wanted. They chose to come home to Talladega.

“I’ll do everything I can to make the park be very prosperous,” he said. “I love Talladega.”

Barnett said he has two four-wheelers he bought to enjoy with his grandchildren, and they’re anxious to come see him and ride the trails in the park.

Barnett worked for cabinet company MasterBrand before retiring, and is also a minister.

He accepted an offer of a $45,000 salary to come on board as park director. The board approved his hiring Tuesday, but had not determined whether he would work directly for the board or through SK Services. The board plans to make that decision at its next meeting, March 19, and make that Barnett’s first day as an employee. That meeting is tentatively set for 7:30 a.m. at Lincoln City Hall, but could be changed to the Environmental Center at the park if it is furnished in time.

Mac Ferguson made the motion to hire Barnett. Joey Cooper seconded the motion, and Tommy Spears and Ray Miller voted in favor. Board member Gary Steed was absent from Tuesday’s meeting.

In other business, the board reviewed a complaint about riders approaching the property of a homeowner whose land is adjacent to the park, and decided not to put up orange construction site-type fencing as a barrier. Instead the board approved allowing employee Wes Pope to try once more to erect barriers to keep riders out of that area. On the master plan for the park, that area is to be restricted to horse riders, but off-road vehicle riders are using the area now.

Pope said the riders aren’t actually entering the neighbor’s property, but the complaint is they are on a ridge on park property with a view that includes their home.

Leah Reddick of the Professional Services Group C.D. Roberts and Associates reported to the board that other parks have extensive liability releases that place responsibility for using safety equipment on the riders. Trail riders using vehicles with seat harnesses and roll bars have complained that being required to wear helmets is redundant, and not required at other parks. Board members want to consult with their attorney and insurance providers to see whether a more comprehensive liability release would be satisfactory at TOP Trails.

Reddick is also seeking bids on security cameras for some areas of the park, and said a temporary sign to mark the park’s entrance is being made. The entrance to the park is off of the Alabama 275 northern bypass; approval from the Alabama Department of Transportation for a permanent sign has not been obtained.

A grant status report given to the board listed a total of $1,777,925 in grants awarded. Of that amount, the board has applied for reimbursements of $891,145 spent. Of that amount, the board has received almost $500,000, and is waiting on approval of $397,621.

Another $304,627 has been spent, with reimbursement to be requested, and another $582,153 remains to be spent.

The board approved accepting a bid from Slappey Communications of Birmingham for telephone and internet service at the park. Members said Slappey is the service provider for Mercedes and First National Bank and UAB among others.

In discussions of the Zip Rider, Spears suggested getting more information about estimates for paying off the ride. He felt the estimates by the seller of the ride are overly optimistic, with talk of 200 riders per day, 300 days per year.

“These he is talking about are in locations that are already destinations,” Spears said. “I would like to find a similar situation to ours.”

Board chairman Spears asked to table new business until the next meeting when all board members are expected to be present.

Those items include a revised shooting complex plan, a ten-year plan of utilization, 2013 monthly timeline, management structure and 2013 budget.

In other business, Spears said a check from Steed for timber for $30,500 has been received, and Reddick said work is being done in preparation for an archery tournament at the park March 30.

Audience member Benny Green passed out a written request to board members and media suggesting “a third and possibly a fourth party” be contracted to independently inventory the timber that has been removed from the park.

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© 2013