5.20.10 | Cullman Community Archery Park: One Year Later
New Ulm, MINN. - When movie character Ray Kinella hears a voice from his cornfield say, "If you build it, he will come," the Iowa farmer played by Kevin Costner believes he is being told to turn his cornfield into a baseball diamond. To the astonishment of his neighbors, he does just that. His dream of creating a country ballpark eventually comes true and crowds are drawn to the "Field of Dreams."
When the ADWFF and the City of Cullman, Ala., first discussed building an archery park in Cullman, they knew that, unlike "Field of Dreams," simply building a facility did not guarantee success. Rather, following ATA's community archery strategy, the ADWFF believe the fortunes of such a park rest on key components including:
On April 29, 2009, the Cullman Archery Park became a reality, thanks to a strong partnership between the City of Cullman, the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (ADWFF), the ATA and local schools, retailers, and citizens. And results were immediate.
Among the many who have taken advantage of the park is 12-year old Lauren Hunt, a student at East Elementary School. "I never thought I would be any good at archery until I got into Laura's class," Lauren said. "But I had so much fun at my first tournament and now all my friends think it's really cool, too."
The park has also had an economic impact. Ricky Davis, an archery professional at Van's Sporting Goods in Cullman, said the park has generated a "tremendous increase in our business. Our archery sales volume has doubled in just one year. This is the best year we've had in years."
Michelle Doerr, ATA director of archery and bowhunting programs works closely with schools, communities and wildlife agencies throughout the country to establish archery programs. The Cullman project, Doerr stated, typifies what can be accomplished with a good mix of determined partners.
"The city offers several archery programs and maintains the facility just as it does with other sports," Doerr explained. "There is a very supportive ATA member retailer and a local archery club that is very welcoming to newcomers. The state wildlife agency continues to provide expertise and support. When the wildlife agency finds an opportunity such as Cullman, ATA investment in it makes good sense."
Utilizing ATA funds and a portion of a $50,000 grant from the Easton Sports Development Foundation to the ATA's community archery strategy, the ATA ultimately provided $102,000 toward the $300,000 Cullman project.
Jay McAninch, ATA president and CEO, said Cullman "is really a testament to what can happen when people identify and stay committed to a vision. The Cullman community is to be applauded for what it has accomplished. This park will serve as a model for other communities around the country."
The city offers youth and adult archery lessons, a Junior Olympic Archery Development program and, later this summer, will offer the Explore Bowhunting a curriculum the ATA developed to introduce students ages 11-17 to the basic skills of bowhunting, wildlife and the woods. The local Heritage Archery Club (HAC) also hosts several tournaments and events at the facility.
Ten members founded the HAC while the park was still in the planning stage in the fall of 2008. When the park opened the following spring, membership had jumped to 130 and has since climbed to 170 members. It is now the second largest chapter in the 40-year-old state Bowhunters of Alabama association and has 14 local corporate sponsors.
In keeping with the concept of building "family-friendly" facilities, an on-site pavilion nearing completion will provide shade and shelter along with restrooms. The addition of a smaller gazebo and playground equipment are expected for later this summer.
"To really make (the park) successful, the key is for park and recreation departments and schools to teach archery just like any other mainstream sport," said Ray Metzler, hunter education coordinator for the Alabama WFF. "The ATA is really helpful in our efforts to get archery into new schools and communities."
"The park has had a very positive impact, not just on expanding archery, but for the local economy," Stuart Goldsby said, a regional hunter education coordinator with the Alabama WFF and a member of the HAC. People travel from as far as Birmingham, about 45-miles from Cullman, to use the park and participate in the city's park and recreation classes. Additionally, the county's economic development organization includes the park as one of its sites to visit when giving tours to tout the county's amenities, Goldsby noted.
Situated on 17 acres of land the ADWFF leases from the city, the park is adjacent to a city golf course. The location enhances the area's recreational appeal as well as the park's visibility. The park features a total of 16 youth and adult targets, a 16-target walking course, and a shooting platform with a 13-foot high elevation and four targets.
Did You Know?
The ATA is a charter member of the American Wildlife Conservation Partners, which works to advance the agenda of hunters, shooters and conservationists in the Congress and with the White House.