• 34°

A look at Camp Goound Zero

MARION &045;&045; It sits on Highway 175, just outside this Perry County town. From the outside, all one can see are some rocks and trees, and a sign that reads &uot;Ground Zero Fire Arms Training Camp.&uot;

But for a few brief hours Wednesday, the nation turned its attention to this small Alabama town and to Ground Zero.

Following reports that the camp had been linked to a series of terrifying sniper shootings in and around Washington, D.C., and that federal authorities had issued a warrant possibly involving the camp, local media and law enforcement personnel descended on Ground Zero.

Those reports turned out not to be true. Media and law enforcement personnel found only what one local official aptly termed a lot of &uot;blank space.&uot;

Since it opened three years ago, the camp has been scrutinized as a possible training ground for terrorists, and possibly as even being linked to events that took place on 9/11. No such links were ever found, however.

Marion Police Chief Tony Bufford said the camp was used a training ground for security personnel, police officers, and other law enforcement personnel.

Bufford said he considered it &uot;fairly unlikely&uot; that the camp was ever used for terrorist activity.

Bufford, who at one point considered sending some of his officers to train at the camp, said the camp &uot;looked like a good place for training.&uot;

Bufford said he decided against sending any of his officers to the camp because his department couldn’t afford the cost to train there, which ran as high as $1,200 to $1,300 per person.

Bufford called Wednesday’s night activities &uot;something blown out of proportion&uot; by the media.

Marion Mayor Edward McDaniel, who said as far as he knew the camp was closed at the present time, said that he knew little about the camp except that it was used as a training ground for law enforcement.

McDaniel said he had received several calls last year informing him that federal agents were inspecting the camp. He also said he had received a number of calls Wednesday night.

Perry County Commission Chairman Johnny Flowers said he first learned about the camp when the operators approached the commission just prior to its opening.

Flowers said he isn’t sure exactly when the camp closed, but he thought it closed shortly after the World Trade Center attacks.

Flowers, who was recently installed as president of the Alabama Association of County Commissioners, took all the commotion in stride.