The River Region's Wave of the Future!
WETUMPKA -- When Chris Carter moved to Wetumpka some 20 years ago, he saw the possibilities that existed in the small town of a few thousand people and knew that someday it would grow to become a tourist destination.
Carter, who is the District 4 councilman and also the owner of Stoddard's Bait and Tackle and Coosa River Adventures, says that the council's recent decision to fund a downtown and riverfront development project will go a long way to making his dream come true.
"We moved here in 1990, and I saw the potential here in Wetumpka," said Carter.
Carter said that he had seen other small towns during his time in the military that had the same potential as Wetumpka and were able to develop attractions for tourists.
"I wanted to use my knowledge. I became a city councilman to use my experience," he said. "I want to share the success I've quietly had over the last 16 years."
Carter described how over the years many citizens and city leaders said they wanted to develop the downtown and riverfront areas, but for various reasons, nothing much ever happened.
"The price points are too high. Some of the price points are as expensive as property on Highway 231," Carter said. "ECEDA (Elmore County Economic Development Authority) will address price points."
State Rep. Barry Mask, director of ECEDA, recently visited city council members during their meeting to describe the plan that he is heading up to spur development within the city. At that time, council members unanimously approved $150,000 to help begin that process.
"The plan needs to address the use of the river. We don't have a railroad or an airport here," the councilman said. "We want to get tourists to realize that they can mosey downtown and get lunch and see the architecture on the way to Lake Martin or Lake Jordan."
Carter says that the approval of the funding was step one in the process of getting the plan together.
"It gets it out of the city of Wetumpka. It needs continuity. Barry Mask is putting his reputation on the line," Carter said. "Not everybody wants to do that these days."
Carter is very positive about what exists and can exist on the riverfront.
"You've got the downtown and the river -- that's a piece of coal and there's a diamond in there," he said. "Now we've got to get the tools to chisel that out."
The next step, according to the District 4 rep, is to get public comments on the project.
"There can't be any back-door politics. Our state's become known for that," Carter added. "It'll be open public meetings."
Carter said that people have tried to dissuade him in the past from his focus on downtown and riverfront development.
"When I ran (for office), I was told that if I ran on downtown development, I wouldn't get elected," he said. "Now if I don't run on downtown development, I won't get reelected."
Carter says that he believes the entire city leadership team is on-board with the plan.
"Everyone's got to be pulling on the rope together and get that golden shovel in the ground," he said.
Carter looks at the downtown project as a way to get a much-needed and much-talked about Highway 14 renovation completed, as well.
"It needs to be a linear corridor. You've got Prattville, Millbrook, Wetumpka, Eclectic, Tallassee," Carter commented. "The downtown is the key. If you connect what we've got here -- and the crater -- they'll be calling us geniuses."
Wetumpka residents seem to agree that the plan is important to the growth of the city.
Valinda Green, who sat on the grass at Gold Star Park with her two boys, Cutter and Gray, on Thursday afternoon, said about the city, "It's a hidden secret. I love to come here with my kids."
Green said that she had read about the funding and said it was good "seed money" to get the plan going.
"It's a positive in a negative economic time," she added.
Wetumpka Progress, June 1, 2011
Seven-year-old Gray Green enjoys his time with the ducks at Gold Star Park on the Wetumpka riverfront. / HAMILTON RICHARDSON/PROGRESS
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