Alcoa says park land still possible

300-acre tract not completely off the table


This picturesque view of a former mining pit could still one day be the site of a park for fishing, camping, hiking and a number of other activities. Alcoa says, “it is still on our list of potential projects.” 
Reporter/Ken Esten Cooke This picturesque view of a former mining pit could still one day be the site of a park for fishing, camping, hiking and a number of other activities. Alcoa says, “it is still on our list of potential projects.” Reporter/Ken Esten Cooke Nearly six years ago, Alcoa reached out to the Rockdale community and attempted to give a little back to the town that had been so good to the aluminum company for over half a century.

Lost in the shuff le of the local plant closing in 2008 is the possible loss of a potential gift of 300 acres of land that was to be converted into a park and with the possibility of a PGA-style golf course as well.

Alcoa spokesman Jim Hodson says the project is on the back burner for now and is not completely dead, but is quick to point out that the land was never actually given to the county.

“We never donated any land to the county,” Hodson said. “It was a potential park area. We talked about that we were willing to work with the county, but we never got to a point where they were ready to do anything with it.

“We have told the county that today is not a good day to donate that land,” said Hodson. “It is still on our list of potential projects.”

When asked if that land would be included in any sale of the former plant site, Hodson said:

“Don’t know. May or may not be,”

Former County Judge Frank Summers would have made the final decision on the land.

“They never donated the land,” Summers said. “However, we were under the impression all the time that it was to be a donation.

“ There were no stipulations from them other than they needed to know what we were going to do with it.

“I was told that it was off the table, but not indefinitely.”

Alcoa announced the donation as part of the company’s community outreach program in 2005.

It stipulated the 300-acre tract could only be used as a park.

The site is a reclaimed former sandow mining area off US 77 about six miles south of Rockdale.

In June of 2006, County Commissioners appointed an eightmember committee to oversee plans for the land.

Possible uses included an RV facility or a visitor center for the El Camino Real historical area.

Nearby Alcoa Lake was once the hot spot for Rockdale area anglers.

But the hot spot became too hot—it was a cooling lake for the former Rockdale operations—and has been closed for decades.

Retired business man Garland Winningham of Gause spearheaded an effort to bring a PGA style golf course to the land.

It would have used up 160 of the 300 available acreage.

The nearest 18-hole course is in Taylor.

It would have been run by an outside company and funding would have come from the state as well as private entities.

Texas A&M had also come up with a park land development plan.

Then, the bottom fell out. The economy failed and Alcoa shut down the 55-year old plant and hundreds upon hundreds were out of work.

“Everything was bright and lovely,” Summers said. “The economy was booming and Alcoa was rolling along pretty good. By the time the committee got around to having a plan, the economy tanked.”

“We didn’t get things done in a timely manner. I feel like that if all that would not have happened, there would be something going on out there today.”

“At some point in time, they are going to have to do something with that land. But, those decisions are made in Pittsburgh.”


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