About 10 minutes from downtown Auburn lies one of the area’s hottest summer attractions — Chewacla State Park, where people can go to enjoy the outdoors and all that nature has to offer, whether it be in the water, along the trails, or on its miles of bike paths.
“You come out here and there’s just the outdoors. There’s wildlife, there’s nature and it’s just kind of odd that we’re not in the middle of nowhere, yet you feel like you are in the middle of nowhere,” said Joshua Funderburk, facility operator and acting-manager of the park.
Brooke Peace Harris, digital marketing manager of the Auburn and Opelika Tourism Bureau, said Chewacla’s close proximity to downtown makes it appealing to both locals and out-of-town guests.
“It’s fantastic that it is just a 10-minute drive to Toomer’s Corner from (Chewacla). So if you’re coming into town for the weekend, or if you live here locally and you have your kids with you, it’s great that you can spend the afternoon at the park but still jump in the car and drive to downtown to catch lunch, go shopping or whatever it is,” she said.
Visitors can partake in activities ranging from camping, fishing, hiking and mountain biking, which brings in people from across the state.
“Chewacla is one of the only parks that has continued to be profitable over the last couple of years,” Harris said. “Most of that has to do with the trails that are out there.”
The park offers over 30 miles of trails, 26 of which have been developed over the last eight years.
“Mountain biking is an ever-popular sport, especially in the state of Alabama. You can mountain bike at any time of the year here, which is a really big draw for people that are traveling,” she said.
The most recent addition to the mountain-biking trails is a dual-slalom slope, which allows two bikers to race down almost identical tracks, Funderburk said. The trails are built and maintained by Central Alabama Mountain Pedalers (CAMP), a nonprofit organization which strives to promote trail advocacy, health, wellness and education by developing, maintaining and riding sustainable multi-use trails, according to the organization’s website.
“(CAMP) is constantly at work in the park cleaning up trails, and when we had those straight in-line winds that turned into tornadoes in Beauregard, they were out here within the next week helping us clean off trails, getting them ready for guests to come in and have a safe, enjoyable trip here,” Funderburk said.
Philip Darden, former president of CAMP, said the organization works to promote mountain biking and encourages bikers to visit Chewacla.
“We’re just a group of passionate mountain bikers that are out here to ride and build trails that we want to ride and influence people to join in on the fun and make it a good opportunity for a lot of folks,” he said.
Much like Harris, Darden said he sees this as a way to promote tourism throughout the area.
“We’re trying to bring people here. We’re trying to bring people to Chewacla to experience not only what the trails have to offer, but what all of Auburn and Opelika has to offer,” he said.
CAMP builds new trails with volunteer labor and federal grant money. Darden said it is important to continue adding new trails to bring other mountain bikers to the area.
“Building new things just kind of keeps interest going at the park and keeps it in the mindset of all the riders throughout the state,” he said. “With more riders there’s the need for more trails just because, like anything else, it gets crowded, so we’ve got to expand to provide more opportunities because there are just more and more riders out there.”
Chewacla also has RV campgrounds, primitive-camping sites and cabins that are available for rent.
“If you’re a family that’s coming in for the weekend for football games, it’s really great to stay right out there at the park, and then you can get up in the morning and go for a hike, then head over to campus,” Harris said.
There are also pavilions for people who wish to relax and spend time with family and friends.
“People come out here all the time and have little gatherings. We have a lot of birthday parties and there are a couple of family reunions this year,” Funderburk said.
Other activities people can enjoy this summer include geocaching, kayaking and paddle boarding. Chewacla will soon offer an online service for people to reserve water activities like kayaks and paddle boards.
Chewacla is open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. The entrance fee for ages 12 to 61 is $4; ages 4 to 11 and ages 62 and up pay $2.
For more information about the park, visit alapark.com/chewacla.