Red Bay offers several activities this summer
By Matt Wilson
For the FCT
Red Bay might be a small community, but according to Mike Shewbart, Director of Operations, there is a lot to do when it comes to recreation out in the west end of Franklin County.
Shewbart said that a lot of the recreational activities and areas are city operated and maintained, but local merchants and the community as a whole are just as much to thank for providing and maintaining the recreational activities in the area.
“When it comes to the little league baseball teams, the recreational league basketball, the soccer league, the umpires and officials—the sponsorship from the local businesses and the time volunteered by the community is vital,” Shewbart said. “It really helps keep a lot of what we have going on.”
The Parks and Recreation Department of Red Bay offers many of the standard team sports throughout the year and are adding new activities all the time.
“We started up a soccer league a few years ago and nobody really knew much about that sport,” Shewbart said. “But someone had moved into the community that knew a little about it and we went from there. But then we needed some officials if we were going to have a league, so we had an officiating school so people could learn about that.”
Shewbart said that offering opportunities to play sports is important.
“We want to start giving kids some guidance and leadership and teach them how to be leaders,” Shewbart said. “That way they can grow up and be leaders and pass that on.”
But aside from the team sports, Shewbart said it is important to offer other avenues for people in the community when it comes to recreation.
One of Red Bay’s biggest attractions during the summer is the city’s Water Park. Started as just a pool in 1972, a water slide was added in 2000 and other amenities have been included over the years as well.
“We have added a kiddie pool and a skateboard park recently,” Shewbart said. “There is a little bit for everyone—all ages—out there at the Water Park.”
The pool is open 1-5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 2-5 p.m. on Sunday.
“Our life guards are trained and Red Cross certified,” Shewbart said. “We try and have the high school students from the community and surrounding areas come in and get trained and serve as life guards for us.”
Shewbart said that the city pool is not just for young children.
“We also have night swims which are tied together with some of our local merchants and the pool can be rented out for private parties,” Shewbart said. “And we also offer an aerobics class at the pool for adults.”
In addition to the water park, the city of Red Bay sits in an area of Franklin County that has abundant natural resources when it comes to recreational activities and Shewbart said that their community really tries to embrace that.
“Here recently we have been trying to iron out the details and finish up feasibility studies about getting a state floatway established from Bear Creek Dam down to Red Bay,” Shewbart said.
Shewbart said that he hopes that can happen and that they can become part of the Alabama Scenic River Trail, a system of waterways in Alabama over 3,000 miles long, and maybe start bringing in more tourism for the city.
“We were seeing motorhomes come through town to be serviced or on their way somewhere else and saw they had canoes or kayaks strapped on top or on the back,” Shewbart said. “But we have something right here for them to do.”
A disc golf course is in the process of being started as well and Shewbart said that a project like that really reflects what kind of community Red Bay is.
“Disc golf is an activity that can be done on your own time, at your own pace,” Shewbart said. “So if someone wants to go out and get some exercise and not have to be part of a team sport they can.
“Someone mentioned the idea of starting up a course and we knew of a piece of property that was just grown up—you couldn’t walk through it—so we started looking at clearing it out. We just try and use what resources we have and what is already available to us. The citizens here look at what can be done and what they can do. We don’t have a community of complainers.”