By DAVID RAINER, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
When you visit Lake Guntersville State Park or the DeSoto Falls area at DeSoto State Park, the ride will be noticeably smoother after the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) teamed with the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) to use material from recycled tires to resurface roads in the parks.
Thanks to an $829,080 grant from ADEM to Alabama State Parks, the repaving project covered the access roads and parking areas for the lodge and campground store at Lake Guntersville State Park, as well as the parking lot at DeSoto Falls. At Lake Guntersville, State Parks provided an additional $500,000 to use the special asphalt to pave other roads in the park.
The material used for the paving utilizes new technology that combines the rubber from recycled tires with asphalt compound to produce a superior road surface. In the recycling process, the tires are ground up and material like steel from belts is removed. The end result is fine, ground rubber that can be mixed with the asphalt and other materials to make an improved resurfacing material. Studies have shown rubberized asphalt can last up to 50 percent longer and is less prone to crack or develop potholes. Because this is a new technology, the National Center for Asphalt Technology at Auburn University certified the asphalt mix.
The project would not have happened without the forward thinking of the ADEM Solid Waste Branch. They mentioned the possibility of the project to ADCNR Deputy Commissioner Ed Poolos, who joined ADCNR after 25 years with ADEM. Poolos loved the idea and shared it with Conservation Commissioner Chris Blankenship and State Parks Director Greg Lein.
“At DCNR we have many roadways on our radar we want to upgrade. When old friends at ADEM began telling me about this new asphalt mix and its benefits and how it might meet our needs, the ideas for this project began to come together,” Poolos said. “It was great to think of a joint project that would promote environmental health and enhance Alabama’s conservation and recreation at the same time. Anytime you can convert something like old, used tires into new roads and parking that benefit our State Parks and Alabama’s citizens who use them, that’s very exciting.”
Lein expanded on that thought.
“Within the State Parks community and the folks who enjoy our facilities, there’s a pretty large segment interested in recycling and recycled products,” Lein said. “So, being able to take a car tire that often ends up in a landfill or a ditch or a wetland and is a source of pollution and recycle it, that idea is very appealing. That recycled material not only resurfaces the road but makes for a better road.
In addition to the parking lot repaving project, DeSoto State Park also completed renovations of the swimming area, the railing, and the restrooms at the falls.
“Resurfacing the parking lot at DeSoto Falls was icing on the cake,” Lein said.