The Gathering Place at Lake Guntersville State Park marks rebuilding from the April 2011 tornadoes

GUNTERSVILLE, Ala. -- State and local leaders and volunteers are celebrating the grand opening of a new events venue at Lake Guntersville State Park. But the celebration goes deeper than a ribbon cutting: it's part of rebuilding from the April 27, 2011 tornadoes.

The snip of scissors on a bright red ribbon, held by state and local officials, volunteers, and Lake Guntersville State Park staff, was a celebration in itself.

"We're celebrating the completion of this building," said Alabama State Parks System Director Greg Lein. "It's what we call The Gathering Place, and it's really a community center within the Lake Guntersville State Park campground."

But, that ribbon cutting went deeper than that. "It's recovering a community center that we had here back before the 2011 tornado," Lein added.

That area of the park looked like the game pick up sticks when the tornado left it. The building that was there got destroyed.

"It was a place that people staying within the campground would come and gather. There were occasions on Sundays where people would worship in the building," Lein explained.

All of that gone, with one storm.

But Friday, a new chapter started. State and local officials joined volunteers and park staff to celebrate the new building.

"It's been a group effort," Lein said. "We've had a lot of volunteerism and we're really proud of that. That epitomizes our state park system."

The Gathering Place is open and ready to be used. For availability, booking and more information, call the Lake Guntersville State Park sales office at 256-505-6634 or email

"We thrive when people come out and use the parks. If you love the parks we encourage you to come out and use them and bring ten of your friends," Lein said.

Some of the money used for the project came from timber sales from clearing the 2011 tornado damage.