Friends of CRATA Newsletter
December, 2023


Happy holiday wishes from the Cherokee Ridge Alpine Trail Association to all of our friends and supporters! We thought this would be a good time to give our followers an update on the progress of our Overlook Tower Project and other trail news. 2023 has been a very busy year for CRATA and our volunteers!

Overlook Tower Project

As we announced in December of 2022, CRATA is currently working on our biggest project to date! We are refurbishing and erecting a second fire lookout tower on the south end of Lake Martin. The tower will stand on CRATA property, purchased from Alabama Power, and located adjacent to Overlook Park, overlooking our trails on the south end of the lake. The tower will stand at 110 feet on one of the highest points of Cherokee Bluffs and will provide another fantastic view of the lake for the public to enjoy!

At the end of 2021 CRATA acquired a historic fire lookout tower located in Virginia and a group of our volunteers traveled to Virginia, disassembled the standing tower and transported it back to Alabama. Most all of our efforts in 2022 were focused on completely refurbishing and re-engineering the old tower for strength and safety. We also went through a months long process of approval and purchase of land on which to erect the tower near our trails. This year we have continued working on the tower structure, but our primary focus has been on preparing the site and building a foundation for the tower to stand on. This endeavor has been a long, highly technical and labor intensive process (thousands of volunteer man hours), which requires a lot of coordination with and between numerous people. We suffered several delays this year from weather and scheduling and unfortunately this has dashed our goal and hopes of completing the tower this year.  Our goal is now to complete the tower and open it to the public sometime during the summer of 2024. The outpouring of support from our followers has been fantastic, not only financially but with volunteer labor, materials and equipment also. For those of you that have already helped us with this project, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts! For those that would like to contribute, click on the links at the bottom of this newsletter to donate or volunteer. Remember donations of $250 or more will get your name on a permanent cast metal plaque, that will be located at the tower site.

We want to thank our major partners (so far) that are making this project plan become a reality!

Tower Structure: Mike and Christina Upton – Sedley, Virginia
Land: Alabama Power Company, F. Allen and Louise K. Turner Foundation
Land preparation:  Steve Fuller, Chris McConnell, Clint Weldon, Red Hill and Union Volunteer Fire Departments
Structural/Civil Engineering: Salvatore (Sal) Granada, PE,SE, Opelika, AL
Building Site & Structural Layout: Steve Martin Engineering, Butch Nabors
Tower Foundation: Wayne Bylsma, Sitemix, Contour Engineering, Paul Wright, Eddie Voss
Electrical: Dixie Electric, Jimmy Jehle
Metal Fabrication: Chris George, Wendell Hornsby, Diversified Steel
Lumber (Milling, Treatment, Purchase): Jerry Bynum, Arnold Lumber Co., Russell Do-It Center – Eclectic
And many others that make things happen: Tallapoosa Publishing, Lake Martin Resource Association, Tallapoosa County, Lake Martin Tourism Association
Most of all, our dedicated volunteers and donors without whom there would be no CRATA !

Thank you all so very much!!

If you would like to view a photo gallery of our tower project work efforts, click here.


Trail News

Hiking trails are of course our primary business and the heart of our organization. Although CRATA’s primary focus this year has been on the construction of the new fire lookout tower, maintaining and looking after our trails continues and remains a high priority. This year has been mostly about storm clean-up! The F1 tornado that crossed the southern end of Lake Martin, early this Spring, downed hundreds of trees on our trails at Overlook Park and on The James Scott Deadening Trail. We had to close the Deadening trail, for several weeks as it was unpassable and dangerous to hike in several areas. Crews of CRATA volunteers spent several weeks cutting approximately 200-300 downed trees from across the trails. We also had numerous blow downs on our trails at Smith Mountain. Much effort and many hours from the trail managers and our volunteers has gone into maintaining our hiking trails for our visitors this year! Other issues at the trails this year have included continued graffiti vandalism at Smith Mountain and 4-wheelers damaging our trails on the Yates Forever Wild property.

Near future plans and projects for our trails include plans to work with State Lands and Forever Wild to expand our existing hiking trails on the Yates Forever Wild land tract. We hope to open a new trail and begin developing additional  trail sections along the shoreline of Yates Lake in 2024.

If you have questions or would like to report issues with our trails, we welcome you to email us at or call at (334) 245-4534.


Thank You!

All of us at CRATA want to thank each of you for your continued support of all of our projects over the years in our efforts to provide free public access to hike quality trails, and to enjoy and learn about the incredible diversity of nature in the Lake Martin area. We continue to be extremely excited about our new tower project, and we are anxious to see it to completion. This tower construction project is extensive and costly! Many of you have already made donations to help us see this through and we are extremely grateful!. We hope you all will please consider CRATA for one of your year-end donations. We are a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and all donations are tax deductible. You can donate online using our secure website donation form by clicking on this link or mail your donations to:

Cherokee Ridge Alpine Trail Assoc.
PO Box 240503,
Eclectic AL 36024

The names of donors making donations of $250 or more will be added to a permanent, cast metal plaque, to be located at the tower, just as we did at Smith Mountain.
Again, thank you all for your continued support and financial help! We hope to see you all on the trails (and the tower soon)!

Steve Thomas
President – Board of Directors

Jimmy Lanier
Founder/Treasurer – Board of Directors

Helpful links:
CRATA website
Donate to CRATA
Overlook Tower Brochure
Tower Project Photo Gallery