Every year the Archery Shooters Association (ASA) kicks off the Delta/McKenzie tour in Foley with the Hoyt/Easton Pro/Am. This year the event runs February 24 – 27. About 2000 shooters come annually to compete in the event and they range in age from lil bits to those with vast life experience. While ASA provides an incredible experience for all their participants they have a special mission to develop youth archers.
ASA Vice President of Marketing Ken White said they’ve run clinic called the Future Champions Pro Session for about 20 years. During the clinic current pro archers give advice and help attendees improve their confidence. White said without continuing to develop a younger base, the sport would take a hit.
“Without kids wanting to compete and have a love for the sport of archery, the future of our association’s platform for growth of the sport would inevitably decline,” White explained. “We want our youth competitors to develop that strong work ethic and receive a sense of accomplishment when they achieve their archery goals, and have them continue to enjoy the sport just like their families have for many years.”
To assist ASA in the development of youth archery Foley’s Graham Creek Nature Preserve has created a new range solely for the kids shoot. Park Ranger David Eckman said in years past youth shooters had to trek quite a distance to reach their ranges. Because these younger archers often have family and friends wanting to watch the competition it was a long way for a large group to go. But what initially started as a way run the youth competition more efficiently, grew into one of the nicest of all of GCNP’s ranges.
Eckman said the new Cane Range was named after the switch cane that grows along the first few lanes of the range. It just so happens that switch cane is the same type of bamboo local Native Americans used as shafts for their arrows. Eckman explained the cane wasn’t the only cool thing about the new range.
“The first two shots are across some water. We have a ditch that goes through there that’s full of water. So you shoot the target across the water and then you walk across the bridge to get your arrow,” Eckman said. “I don’t think there are any other ranges where you shoot across the water so I think the kids are really going to like that. It’s only 8-foot wide but it’s enough to make it a cool shot.”
While the kids are going to enjoy the new range, Eckman laughed their might be a few of the pros looking to try it out as well.
With both the new range and continued youth clinic, Foley Sports Tourism and ASA hope to further develop youth archery. City of Foley Environmental Director Leslie Gahagan said working on this project only furthered the relationship between the two organizations as well as the relationship both visitors and locals have with GCNP.
“ASA is a very valued partner of the city,” Gahagan said. “We’ve been working together since 2015 and every year want to give our visitors an even better experience that they had the year before. We’ve been able to showcase Graham Creek as a destination for archery but also help grow our own local programs. We have a Foley High School archery club, we have a City of Foley archery recreation program, and we have local clubs growing every day. We’ve built a strong relationship with ASA but together we’ve also help build a new generation of archers.”