Robert Switzer and his wife are outdoor enthusiasts. Tuesday, the couple from Mobile, Alabama were on their last leg of a camping trip in the area. It's one of many they said they would take this year. Although the two docked their boat at Parramore Landing in Jackson County, they were not camping there.
"We're actually staying over on the Georgia side. They had a real nice camp site over on the east bank...We looked at Three Rivers State Park, but it's a little- looks like it needs a good bit of work and improvement. It's not looking the best in the world" Robert said.
And it's reactions like that which prompted Jackson County officials to take steps in improving some of the area's recreational parks. Over the past year, the county has been aggressively seeking to boost eco-tourism in the area.
That's why officials hired an engineering firm to conduct an environmental assessment and draft a master plan for improving four parks the county leases from the Corps of Engineers. The parks include three rivers, Buena Vista, Parramore, Neal and Howell's landings.The County is spending around $45,000 in bed tax collections to update the master plan. The last plan was drafted in 1989.
"That's one of the reasons we're going to do the master plan and have the public input as to, 'what do we need to have in these parks to attract the people from from Mobile or Baldwin County or Georgia'" said Chuck Hatcher, the Director of Parks and Recycling in Jackson County.
Hatcher said he hoped new campsites, walking trails and boat docks would attract tourists to the county. Switzer seemed to think the added attractions would do the job.
"If the park was nicer, yeah, I'd probably stay there instead of going over to the other side. But, you know, you stay where you've got the most conveniences" Switzer told us.
"If you build it, they'll come. And we're hoping that if we improve it, they'll come and stay" Hatcher added.
The county has planned three public hearings for October to let people suggest upgrades for the parks.