City, county to be ‘gateway’ to Heritage Area

Published 2:21 pm Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Alabama Black Belt Heritage Area: it’s a region of the state rich with natural resources, historical sites, cultural diversity and recreational activities, so named for its rich and fertile black soil.

It’s also an unpolished gem that could bring much-needed tourism dollars to the area, says Walter Parmer of Greenville.

Parmer is currently serving as the Butler County liaison for the task force for the ABBHA, which includes 19 counties: Bibb, Butler, Bullock, Choctaw, Clarke, Conecuh, Dallas, Greene, Hale, Lowndes, Macon, Marengo, Monroe, Montgomery, Perry, Pickens, Sumter, Washington and Wilcox.

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While these counties are rich in beauty and history, many are also among the poorest in the state.

ABBHA, Parmer says, is a “bootstrap” program attempting to make use of existing resources and assets to improve the socio-economics of the 19-county area.

“I really like the fact this program is trying to make use of what is already there. We have a tough economic climate right now, and industrial development is pretty much at a standstill,” said Parmer. “Hopefully, local governments have come to understand chasing a few smokestack industries looking to expand is a waste of taxpayer funds. Every city and county in the county are courting the same opportunities, so the highest bidder is going to win. They give too many economic concessions to these plants in order to acquire them.”

Parmer says Butler County can play a significant role as part of the ABBHA.

“A major focus of this effort to attract tourists will be the initial development of two walking/driving trails – the Black Belt Heritage/Nature Trail and the Piney Woods Birding Trail, to be augmented by the development of the Federal Road/Bartram Trail. Butler County is the mid-point on this trail,” Parmer said.

Combined with the RTJ Cambrian Ridge Golf Course, Interstate 65, and the significant number of motel rooms at Exit 130, “Greenville and Butler County serve as the gateway to the ABBHA.”

“Tourists have the discretionary income to spend in the local economy . . . this could be the key to the economic revitalization of downtown Greenville,” Parmer said.

Parmer urges local citizens to embrace the Black Belt Heritage Area and its objectives.

“It makes sense to use the existing assets to provide employment to our citizens and provide higher quality educational systems for our children,” he said.

For more information on the Alabama Black Belt Heritage Area, visit the website at