Future ‘Exploration Park’ could open up part of Redstone Arsenal

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT)-- Army leaders want to know the best way to use a thousand-acre portion of the arsenal, which could be come "Exploration Park."

It's the part of the Arsenal that lies behind the U.S. Space & Rocket Center and encompasses land including two golf courses and the Summit at Redstone.

Exploration Park possibilities, USSRC photo

Exploration Park area, photo by USSRC and Redstone Arsenal

The U.S. Space & Rocket Center's CEO, Deborah Barnhart, is working with a team to come up with a proposal for the land use that focuses on quality of life. She says they've been researching around the community to find out what the park's possible neighbors think would be good options to put on the table.

She says a proposal they come up with will likely include lots of outdoor activities as a way to connect the Huntsville area's greenways.

"More outdoor green space for hiking and biking," she explained. "The two golf courses on the arsenal would become open to the public and still run by the Army's Morale Welfare and Recreation." She said it could also include "Things like zip lines, an alpine slide, we'd kind of like to see a canopy tour."

Elements like a Space Academy or a conference center are also being discussed as separate phases of the project as it evolves.

Barnhart says the USSRC has recently been awarded Madison County funds to continue planning because there is still much work that needs to be done before a final proposal is made. That money has recently sparked some rumors she wanted to address.

"This is not a transfer of property," she explained. "There will be no land changing hands here. It will still be owned by the U.S. Army." She said the planning efforts would encompass the rocket center's master plan along with Exploration Park.

She's hoping the team, that includes more than just those at the rocket center, can have a proposal to the Army by the middle of the summer and that a response comes quickly. After all, it's the Army's decision what to do with their property. She's thankful for the generosity.

Redstone Arsenal Garrison spokesman Chris Colster commented to WHNT News 19:

"The Army is currently open to suggestions on how to use the land for the benefit of the community. We look forward to this project, which can bring a central park-type atmosphere to the Tennessee Valley. This land is almost in the center of our community. An early challenge will be to move the fence line in a way in which we keep the arsenal secure and the employees, safe."

Barnhart is excited because she says she sees a lot of potential and opportunity on that property.

"Exploration Park could be that defining signature element of Huntsville. You drive into Huntsville, see the Saturn V, and right there is a beautiful green space/park that you can go to... run, hike, bike, enjoy the outdoors," she commented.