5.4.09 | Park Opening Reveals Grassroots Enthusiasm
CULLMAN, Ala. – An estimated 150 people – a tapestry of kids, moms and dads, archers and bowhunters and city, county and state leaders turned out for the grand opening of the Cullman Community Archery Park in Cullman, Ala., Thurs., April 29. The park is one initiative in the larger Community Archery Program to grow archery and bowhunting.
The $285,000 project, a collaborative effort between the City of Cullman, the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (ADWFF) and the Archery Trade Association (ATA), will also act as a show piece for states across the country that are interested in providing similar archery and bowhunting participation opportunities through local archery parks or shooting facilities and introductory archery programs such as the National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP) and the After School Archery Program (ASAP).
“The Cullman Community Archery Park is the second of six Alabama archery facilities now completed or under way,” said Ray Metzler, hunter education coordinator for Alabama’s state wildlife agency. “We’re grateful for funding provided by both the City of Cullman and the Archery Trade Association, but I think the real story here is the community people who have embraced this park and the pride folks show in having this valuable asset. They’ve endorse what we’re doing in a number of ways from buying targets for the range, starting an archery club and even taking off work to set up and prepare for this grand opening event.”
The Cullman Community Archery Program had received $52,000 from the ATA before
“I wish everybody could be here and see this,” McAninch said, pointing out a sign that listed local high schools who contributed signage and other structural pieces to the range. “You can see why we do this. Yes, it’s our expectation to make archery and bowhunting available in communities just as little league baseball or soccer is, but it’s also about all the pieces of a community coming together to make the park a possibility and archery a real piece of the area’s recreational menu.”
Cullman High School Carpentry Department, Good Hope High School FFA and Fairview High School each contributed to the range by building signage, benches and target frames. Meanwhile, students from Hanceville Middle School attended the grand opening and initiated the range as each student had an opportunity to shoot and test the new targets. Members of the newly formed Heritage Archery Club, a Cullman-area bowhunters group and local chapter of the Bowhunters of Alabama, also attended the event. Shane Cupp, the man credited with organizing the club, spent time prepping the site for its grand opening.
“We formed the club in August,” said Cupp. “The interest in archery in our county has been getting larger over the last several years. So, with the park in the works, it just made since to start the club. Plus the organized group gives area bowhunters a sense of community.”
Already, the archery club has donated $6,000 in Delta targets for 3-D tournaments set to take place at the park. The group was formed as soon as work on the Cullman Archery Park began in 2008 and, within a week, it became the state’s third largest chapter.
“I took off work early today so I could come out here and see the park officially open,” said Steve Mann, an employee at Hired-Hand, an Alabama-based manufacturing company. “It’s going to be great to come out here and practice, get outside and hone my hunting skills.”
The Cullman archery park features 36 targets, including an eight-target beginner’s range from 5 to 20 yards; an eight-target general target range of 15 to 50 yards; a four-target bowhunting range of 10 to 40 yards with a 12-foot platform; and a 16-target walking course with shots out to 70 yards.
The first such state-of-the-art archery park opened in 2008 in Athens, about 50 miles from Cullman. Meanwhile, the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries is building archery parks in Dothan and Demopolis, and will soon break ground in Heflin. The state is also negotiating for an archery park in Huntsville.
“With the park opening today and the efforts made to introduce more kids to archery and bowhunting, I think the momentum of these projects is evidence in the follow-through,” said Jerry Wydner, an ATA member and vice president of Hunter Safety System, a company that manufactures safety harnesses and other hunting apparel and accessories. “People can say a lot of things, but when those from the state agency, the ATA and the community show up and roll up their sleeves, you can see the excitement. It’s motivating and it motives me.”
In all, the ATA has provided Alabama’s state wildlife agency more than $100,000 in grants and equipment to grow archery and expand bowhunting opportunities in the state. In 2008, 147 Alabama schools participated in NASP and, as a result of CAP in Athens, Ala., 15 new schools were added to NASP.
“Community archery programs start with NASP as a key introduction to archery but then include after-school and recreational archery programs as well as the critical shooting facilities all archers need in order to enjoy shooting year round,” said Michelle Doerr, the ATA’s director of archery and bowhunting programs.
Doerr doesn’t necessarily endorse the cliché, “if you build it, they will come.” Instead, she describes a four-pronged approach, alluding to each providing equal support like four legs on a kitchen table. One leg represents your archery facility, a second is NASP, a third is making archery available in community recreation programs through ASAP and the fourth leg is a supporting role provided by local archery shops, clubs and organizations. The glue that holds all these legs together is for state and local government support of the facilities and archery programs.
Since 2004, the ATA has provided funding totaling approximately $884,000– including grants provided through CAP – to initiate NASP in the United States, Canada and Australia. It has also contributed nearly $960,000 in CAP grants, equipment and direct aid to state wildlife agencies to grow archery and expand bowhunting opportunities.
Did You Know?
The ATA provides expertise and financial support to the Ballot Issues Coalition to support pro-hunting ballot initiatives and defend against anti-hunting referendums.