- Associated Press - Monday, December 5, 2016

GADSDEN, Ala. (AP) - Several months ago, Jacob Millican went public with a nonprofit organization, proposing a project that could bring big benefits to the Gadsden area.

Gadsden-Etowah Adventures obtained a two-year option from the city earlier this year to develop about 64 acres of property at and around the old steel plant pump station off Brooke Avenue. The organization’s plans are to develop a park designed to accommodate disabled children, a whitewater park on Big Wills Creek and other outdoor recreation areas.

Millican recently spoke to the Gadsden Civitan Club and offered an update on the project.

The Gadsden attorney said the project went to the back burner a bit while he was involved in getting the new location of the Boys & Girls Club of Gadsden/Etowah County open. Millican serves on the board of a number of organizations, including the Boys & Girls Club and 13th Place.

He told Civitans his wife, January, is involved with the Humane Society Pet Rescue and Adoption Center, and that Probate Judge Bobby Junkins had convinced him to handle Etowah County’s guardianships and conservatorships.

Millican said they have often joked that between the two of them, they had children, teens, dogs, cats and seniors “on lockdown.”

With the Boys & Girls Club open and serving Gadsden’s kids, Millican said he’s been able to get back to work on the park project.

He said it was born out of selfishness - he likes to kayak and didn’t want to have to go to Tennessee to do it. But when he talks about the project, the parts that he speaks of first are not selfish. It’s the 2.5-acre park planned for disabled children that he talks about up front.

Millican said after talking to a friend who has a child with autism and cerebral palsy, he realized there are no facilities in the area - and few anywhere - designed to accommodate special needs children. He wants to develop such a place, where special needs kids can come for camps or just to play.

“I really hope to have music and arts camps,” Millican said. “Those activities can really help autistic children.”

And it can be a place where all young people can learn to appreciate more than their cellphones and video games. “That’s really what I want to do this for - to get kids outdoors and teach them to appreciate the outdoors,” Millican said.

His vision for the development includes the park, walking and hiking trails, and a whitewater element that would remove the dangerous lowhead dam there and replace it with a controlled feature that can change the level of difficulty in the course. He envisions a course that’s about 3 miles long.

Millican said an “outfitter” on site could help the park.

First, however, the nonprofit has to raise money. Millican estimates $6 million will be needed for the entire project. He hopes enough money can be raised so that work can begin within the next 18 months.

Gadsden-Etowah Adventures has a grant writer, he said, working to find grants the project could be eligible for based on its accommodations for the disabled, and its planned “green” status.

Millican said he plans to use solar and hydroelectric energy at the park.

As was discussed when he brought up the project with the City Council, the property there is not suited for any other kind of development, and it has long been a cause for concern for police.

Gadsden police are investigating two unrelated murders where the bodies were found in that remote area. No arrests have been made in either case.

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Information from: The Gadsden Times, https://www.gadsdentimes.com


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