Perry Lakes Park History

The ground breaking ceremony for the Perry Lakes Park was held on June 25, 2001. This event was attended by many State political leaders, representatives of the Department of Conservation, Marion and Perry County officials, numerous individuals from environmental organizations and scores of local citizens. The Park officially opened in May, 2002.

Thomas Wilson giving speach at ribbon cuttting
Ribbon cutting for Park Pavilion, 2002

Four students from Auburn's Rural Studio accepted part of the Perry Lakes Park restoration as their final project. Jennifer Bonner, Mary Beth Maness, Nathan Orrison, and Anthony Tindill designed and constructed this pavilion for the picnic area.

Participating in the ribbon-cutting for the new pavilion are (L to R): Mary Ward Brown, author of "Tongues of Flame;" Bob Reed, Birmingham Audubon Society; Mary Beth Maness, studnet; Anthony Tindill, student; Nathan Orrison, student; Mayor Ed Daniel; Jennifer Bonner, student; Dr. Thomas Wilson, Judson College Biologist; Judge Cook; Donald Nicholds; Charles LeCroy; and Milford Smith, Alabama Power.

Franklin D. Roosevelt commissioned the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1935 to build bridges, lakes, and parks in order to provide employment during the "Great Depression." These workers used mules and wagons to create the Perry Lakes Park located five miles east of Marion, behind the U. S. Southeastern Fish Cultural Laboratory and near the Marion State Fish Hatchery on Perry County highway 175. Charles Wiant came from Pennsylvania to be the first Manager at the Marion Hatchery.

Auburn Rural Studio students Matthew Edwards, Sara Singleton, Lynielle Houston, and Charlie Jorgensen, along with Dr. Thomas Wilson, were lucky to meet Jack and Evelyn Snow one October day in the Park. Jack Snow was manager of the Marion Fish Hatchery in 1950-1973. Jack commissioned the forestry survey for the Park area and established the fire lanes which now serve as natrue trails. Jack Snow is looked on as "Pop" of the Park.
Auburn students and Thomas Wilson meet Jack and Evelyn Snow in the Park

Perry Lakes Park was open from the mid-1930s until it was closed in 1974 when fish were stolen from the Fish Cultural Laboratory. The Fish Cultural Laboratory was closed in 1994 due to reorganization of the research projects.

Closure of the Southeastern Fish Cultural Laboratory in Marion in 1994 dealt a severe blow to the Marion community, but, it opened the door for the restoration of the old Perry Lakes Park. The S. E. Fish Cultural Laboratory was owned by the Federal government and it was located beside the State Fish Hatchery in Marion. The road leading to the old Perry Lakes Park is located on the Culture Laboratory property. For security reasons, this road was closed in 1974 which blocked the public from the Perry Lakes Park.

The Perry Lakes Park and Barton's Beach Cahaba River Preserve Board is composed of the following individuals:

Perry Lakes Park reopen in May of 2002 due to the hard work, dedication, and political savvy of Donald Cook, Judge of Probate, and due to the efforts of Thomas Wilson, Judson College Professor of Biology, and other local community leaders. Governor Don Siegelman, senators Jeff Sessions, Richard Shelby and Earl Hilliard executed necessary political requirements for the park. The project has received strong support from, Ed Daniel, the Mayor of Marion, Johnny Flowers and the Perry County Commissioners, Maurice Jackson, past Manager of the Marion Fish Hatchery, and Riley Boykin Smith, Director of the Alabama State Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

Representatives from the Cahaba River Society, The Alabama Environmental Council, the Nature Conservancy of Alabama, and the Birmingham Ornithological Society worked with the Marion group in the early planning of the Park and Preserve. Community service projects at the Park and Preserve by students, faculty and staff at Judson College and Marion Military Institute demonstrate the appreciation we all have for these wonderful natural areas.

Financial support for Perry Lakes Park has come from Alabama Power Company largely due to the efforts of Milford Smith, local manager for Alabama Power. Norman Burton, Ala-Tom RC&D Council, awarded a grant to Thomas Wilson, Judson College biologist, for plant identification and labeling. ALA-TOM RC&D Council awarded a grant to the Perry Coounty Commission for the Perry Lakes Park project. A generous grant from ADECA funded a culvert bridge and the restrooms. Funds for the design and creation of a trail system was presented by Alabama Soil and Water Conservation Committee. In-kind assistance by employees of the City of Marion, Perry County Commission, the RC&D Earth Team, and by Judson College professors makes it possible to have the facility.

Donald Cook, Board Chair, Judge of Probate, Perry County
Johnny Flowers, Chairman of the Perry County Commission
Ed Daniel, past Mayor of the City of Marion
Milford Smith, Alabama Power Company (past member)
Maurice Jackson, Manager of the Marion Fish Hatchery
Gordon Vann, City of Uniontown
Keith Tassin, Nature Conservancy of Alabama
  Thomas H. Wilson, Professor of Biology, Judson College (Environmental Advisor)
Dan Overton, Perry County Engineer
Linwood Herron, Grant Coordinator
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For more information, contact:
Dr. Thomas Wilson