Mounds of tourism
Economic downturn bringing more visitors to Oakville attractions
By Nancy Glasscock, Staff Writer, The Decatur Daily
OAKVILLE — Built using baskets of dirt 2,000 years ago, the Copena Burial Mound was the final resting place for bodies encased in clay plaster and covered with layers of dirt.
The false stone crypts where settlers were entombed in the mid-1800s still sit on top of the mound in the Oakville Indian Mounds Park, which also contains the largest Woodland Indian mound in Alabama.
In a bad economy, more people are visiting the Indian mounds and the Jesse Owens Memorial Park and Museum, directors said.
Both are open Sunday and Labor Day.
“I don’t know what to attribute it to,” said Butch Walker, director of the Oakville Indian Mounds Park and Museum. “But we do not have an admission fee, and that may be one thing. It might’ve helped with the economy like it is, because people know they can get in for free.”
Walker said 300 visitors signed in on weekends last month, not including visitors who used the park for camping or fishing.
The Jesse Owens Memorial Museum has had 12,000 visitors since January, an increase of about 30 percent over the same time period last year.
In 2008, it had visitors from 18 countries and 37 states.
The museum is free for individuals and small family groups. For groups of 10 or more, there is a $2 admission charge. Admission into the park is always free.
Established in 1986, the Oakville Indian Mounds Museum has more than 20,000 artifacts. The Oakville Indian Mound, the largest Woodland ceremonial Indian mound in Alabama, 27 feet high on 1.8 acres, is believed to have been a cultural center for the Copena Indians.
Experts believe the mound is more than 2,000 years old and constructed from dirt carried in baskets from the Oakville Pond area about 300 yards east.
Also in the park are three picnic pavilions, two outdoor restroom facilities, a shop/meeting building and paved roads.
More than 3,300 runners visited the park last year for the 10th annual Jesse Owens Classic high school cross country meet. More than 1,900 runners were at the annual Chickasaw Trails meet.
Changes at the Jesse Owens Memorial Park and Museum include a remodeled exterior at the replica of the home where Owens was born, sidewalks, and additional items at the gift shop, said Nancy Pinion, a director.
Glass display cases contain memorabilia, including programs from the 1936 Olympics, replicas of track uniforms and shoes, and medals and trophies from Owens’ high school years. Visitors can watch movies about Owens in a mini theater and test their athletic skills in a broad jump pit that commemorates Owens’ 1936 Berlin Olympic gold medal jump of 26 feet, 5 5/16 inches.
Adjacent to the museum, a wooden house with cracked walls and blankets on the floor for beds is a replica of the home Owens lived in until he moved with his family to Cleveland at age 9.
Ron and Ivey Cotton, of Hanceville, toured the Jesse Owens Museum on Thursday and said they planned to visit the Oakville Indian Mounds the same day.
“We’ve been through Moulton a number of times, and we finally decided we’d come out about two weeks ago,” Ron Cotton said, adding that they made the trip because of the historical significance of Owens’ accomplishments in the 1936 Olympics in Nazi Germany.
The number of visitors at the park and museum could decline if more school systems restrict field trips to save money, Pinion said.
“We had a workshop here for Huntsville history teachers during the summer, and they were so impressed with the facility, but were worried they wouldn’t be able to bring students because their system might not allow them to take trips because of the economy,” she said.
The Jesse Owens Memorial Park relies on donations, admission from tours and the County Commission for funding. The Oakville Indian Mounds Park is funded by donations and grants, as well as vendors, parking fees and admission for rides at the Lawrence County Multicultural Indian Event.
The Jesse Owens Memorial Museum is open from 9 a.m. To 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 1:30 p.m. To 5 p.m. Sunday.
the Oakville Indian Munds Museum is open from 7:30 a.m. To 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10:30 a.m. To 4 p.m. Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday. Both museums will be open Labor Day.