The first, and most pressing project, involves the creation of tourist sites in Anniston which will be included on the new Alabama Civil Rights Trail, a project of the state tourism department. Spirit of Anniston chairwoman Ann Welch said the trail would open next summer.
Spirit Executive Director Betsy Bean said the state trail would also identify lesser-known civil rights events in Birmingham, Montgomery, Selma and other communities around Alabama.
Bean said sites being discussed for the local trail include the location of the 1961 Freedom Riders bus burning on Alabama 202, the former Greyhound bus station on Gurnee Avenue — where the Freedom Riders were initially attacked upon entering Anniston, and the Public Library of Anniston-Calhoun County.
"This is what we call 'low hanging fruit'," said Bean. "There's no reason we can't tap into those visitors; and the longer we can keep people here, the more economic development we can have."
Spirit committee member Elmyra Jackson said the group would ideally like for the sites to include plaques, photographs, oral histories or murals.
"We want to be respectful of how we tell these stories. My main concern is that we properly honor those that we intend to honor," Jackson said.
Although Bean said Spirit of Anniston had not put an exact dollar figure on the total cost of the project, it asked the city of Anniston for a consideration of $300,000 in its budget.
"We need to look at fixing up West 15th Street, and look at bus parking," she said. "We can bootstrap it to get it going, but we want something good for people to look at next year that makes Anniston proud."
Former Spirit of Anniston chairman Jim Miller said the group needs to act quickly to develop local trail sites by next year.
"We've got a very short window of time to come up with some funding and get these ideas implemented," Miller said. "We want to have something of value and interest that represents this city in a positive way."
The other project, which Bean said was in early planning stages, involves the development of an "Alabama Museum of the Southern Small Town".
"We have small towns throughout Calhoun County, and they clearly have a dramatic history," said Bean. "You've got a million stories when you talk about the small Southern town.
"It would be a huge multi-million dollar project, and we're trying to raise the first $25,000 to get some consultants in here to look at the feasibility of it," she said, adding that the project is likely 10 years away from implementation.