Tourism Tuesdays November 24, 2015


  • CNN features Alabama barbecue as heaven for football fans
  • Alabama Music Hall of Fame names 2016 inductees
  • Alabama tourism officials to meet with tour operators in Charlotte
  • Kymulga Covered bridge in Alabama featured in USA Today
  • Gulf State Park project team applies for partnership with Hilton
  • New hiking trail on Forever Wild Wehle Tract in Bullock County
  • Site-specific reservations coming to Alabama State Parks online system
  • Tuscumbia ornament features music hall of fame
  • Mobile’s convention business booming
  • USS Alabama Battleship Commission announced selection of new Battleship Memorial Park Executive Director
  • Long-Term Reef Plan to Benefit Alabama Marine Environment
  • Governor’s Mansion open for Candlelight Tours
  • Welcome Center Holiday Open House
  • Alabama Tourism Department (ATD) upcoming events

CNN features Alabama barbecue as heaven for football fans
By Marnie Hunter, CNN, Nov. 20

In the South, college football and barbecue can both be near-religious experiences.
Combine the two, and you’ve got the makings for a truly rapturous road trip.
Some of the barbecue restaurants listed here will do tailgating orders; others are worth a separate stop or detour for fans of expertly smoked meats.

To narrow the field, we’ve centered each of these barbecue pilgrimages around upcoming games between in-state college football rivals during the Thanksgiving weekend.
Calling ahead is a good idea, as holiday and game-day hours may vary.
TripAdvisor’s picks: America’s best barbecue


Alabama tourism officials have declared 2015 the Year of Alabama Barbecue.

As part of the celebration, the state launched a free app devoted to the Alabama BBQ Trail and established the Alabama Barbecue Hall of Fame, showcasing spots that have been in business for at least 50 years.

Several Hall of Famers are within sampling distance for football fans traveling to Auburn for the November 28 faceoff between the University of Alabama’s Crimson Tide and the Auburn Tigers in the annual Iron Bowl.

Fans from Tuscaloosa can put down a base layer of delicious ribs at the original Dreamland Bar-B-Que restaurant (5535 15th Ave. E.) before hitting the road for the game in Auburn.

Brenda’s Bar-B-Que Pit (1457 Mobile Road), which opened in Montgomery in 1942, is along the route between the two rival football towns.

There are no Hall of Famers in Auburn yet, but Mike and Ed’s (307 N. College St.) and Price’s Barbecue House (345 S. College St.) have plenty of avid fans.

Mike and Ed’s will be fielding hundreds of tailgating pre-orders for the Iron Bowl, owner Jp Lemay said. Ordering early is key, as the restaurant may not be open to walk-ins on Saturday.

To read this entire article online, go to:

Alabama Music Hall of Fame names 2016 inductees
By Russ Corey,, Nov. 19

Harvey Thompson said getting into music was the best choice he could have ever made.

And at age 74, he and three other members of the Muscle Shoals Horns will be inducted into the Alabama Music Hall of Fame during its induction banquet scheduled for Feb. 26 at the Marriott Shoals Hotel and Spa in Florence. Ticket information has not been announced.

“That’s going to be fantastic,” Thompson said about the Horns’ inclusion in the 2016 class of inductees. The Horns include fellow Shoals residents Charles Rose, Harrison Calloway and Ronnie Eades.

Also being inducted are former Grateful Dead member Donna Jean Godchaux-MacKay, producer Johnny Sandlin, the Southern rock band Wet Willie, and keyboardist Chuck Leavell.

Thompson joked “it’s about time” the legendary group is inducted into the hall of fame.

“I think they had mentioned that we might go in,” Thompson said. “I wasn’t real sure.”

Thompson said he and Calloway played music together when they were students at Tennessee State University, where Thompson majored in music. The Muscle Shoals Horns launched four songs into the Billboard R&B charts, including “Born To Get Down,” which reached No. 8. They’re best known for providing horns on about 300 albums with artists that included Bob Dylan, James Brown, Paul Simon, B.B. King, Jimmy Buffett, Bobby “Blue” Bland, Elton John, Waylon Jennings, Buddy Guy, Dr. Hook, Robert Palmer, Clarence Carter, Boz Scaggs, the Staple Singers, Bob Seger and others.

The group reunited earlier this year to perform together for the first time in three decades.

“We worked up there for so long, it’s good the hall of fame people are recognizing some of the work we’ve done over the years,” Calloway said. “I’m elated to be a part of that scene.”

Calloway said it was FAME Recording Studios founder Rick Hall who convinced Calloway to move to Muscle Shoals.

“To this day, people ask me, ‘Harrison, how were y’all able to do horn on so many artists,’ ” Calloway said. “We simply went to Rick Hall college.”

Another important aspect of the Horns’ induction, Calloway said, is that “everything they accomplished we did while we were in Alabama.”

Godchaux-McKay is a Sheffield native who is best known as a singer with the legendary San Francisco jam-rock band The Grateful Dead.  Before that, she was a background singer in Muscle Shoals and Memphis.

“Although it is indeed an honor to have been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (in 1994 with the Grateful Dead), it’s a special honor to be included as an inductee into the Alabama Music Hall of Fame,” Godchaux-MacKay said.

“There”s just something special about home and roots,” Godchaux-MacKay said. “I’m privileged to be in the company of my Alabama musical peers, some of whom I have known since high school, and humbled to be inducted alongside the likes of Wet Willie, Chuck Leavell, Johnny Sandlin and the fabulous Muscle Shoals Horns. It doesn’t get much better than that.”

Godchaux-MacKay’s vocals can be heard on Percy Sledge’s “When a Man Loves a Woman,” Elvis Presley’s “Suspicious Minds” and on recordings by Cher, Neil Diamond, Boz Scaggs, Joe Tex, Dionne Warwick, Ben E. King and countless others. She is married to bassist David McKay. The Donna Jean Godchaux Band with Jeff Mattson released “Back Around,” an album recorded in 2014 at the NuttHouse Recording Studio in Sheffield.

Chuck Leavell is a native of Birmingham and a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award winner who has played keyboards with The Rolling Stones since the early 1980s.

He played on Gregg Allman’s first solo album, and later became a member of the Allman Brothers Band. He also formed with the Southern jazz-rock group Sea Level, and has performed with Eric Clapton, George Harrison, Dr. John, John Mayer, Aretha Franklin, Linda Ronstadt and others.

Decatur native Johnny Sandlin is credited with helping shape the sound of Southern music. He was a member of the band Hour Glass with Gregg and Duane Allman, a predecessor of the Allman Brothers Band.

Sandlin has produced and mastered some of the best musicians in the South, including the Allman Brothers, Widespread Panic, Delbert McClinton and Wet Willie, Elvin Bishop, Bonnie Bramlett, Jerry Reed, the Derek Trucks Band and Tim Weisberg. He owns and operates Duct Tape Recording Studio, and remains active as a producer.

Mobile’s Wet Willie is known for its 1974 hit “Keep On Smilin’,” which reached No. 10 on the Billboard charts. The band combined Southern soul music with good-time blues and rock to create a soulful Southern rock sound that spawned numerous other Top 40 hits.

Jimmy Hall remains the lead vocalist in the band, which includes Jack Hall, Donna Hall, John David Anthony, Ricky Hirsch and Lewis Ross. T.K. Lively, Ric Seymour and Ricky Chancy are recent members of Wet Willie.
State Tourism Director Lee Sentell said the hall of fame’s board of directors tapped into several sources for
suggestions on inductees. The public provided the board with 76 names.

“This was the first time we opened up the process to fans around the state,” Sentell said.

He said it was surprising how similar the public’s suggestions were to the professional musicians who provided input.

They also had input from Sirius XM radio, a “named DJ,” the Songwriters Hall of Fame, and from representatives of the American Music Triangle.

“We wanted the perspective of people not only in the state, but also the music industry outside Alabama,” Sentell said.

The induction and awards banquet is returning to the site of the sold-out 2014 banquet that raised $80,000 for the hall of fame, which had just reopened in October 2013.

To read this article online, go to:

Alabama tourism officials to meet with tour operators in Charlotte

Twenty-one Alabama tourism officials will join representatives from other southern states in Charlotte, North Carolina, for the Travel South International Showcase Nov. 30 – Dec. 3.

Representatives from the state tourism department, local tourism offices, top attractions and hotels in Alabama will have appointments with tour operators from around the world during the 4th annual showcase.

This event specifically targets International Buyers and US Receptive Tour Operators booking travel for international guests that want to visit the Southeast. The show features pre-scheduled appointments with buyers and operators in pod style format, allowing suppliers to group together to better promote their region.

Travel South USA International Showcase is an invitation-only event.

Scheduled to attend the showcase from Alabama are representatives from:
Alabama Tourism Department, Alabama Road Trips, Birmingham CVB, Huntsville / Madison County CVB, Tuscaloosa Tourism and Sports Commission, Mobile Bay CVB, Muscle Shoals Area (NW Alabama) and Florence CVB.

Kymulga Covered bridge in Alabama featured in USA Today

The travel section of the USA Today webpage last week included a photo essay of covered bridges in America.

Among the covered bridges highlighted was one in Alabama, Kymulga Covered bridge, which spans Talladega Creek near Childersburg.

With a headline of “30 beautiful covered bridges around the USA,” the essay displayed all 30 bridges with both a photograph and accompanying copy.

The photo of Kymulga by Melody McClure showcases the bridge over Talladega Creek with green trees in the background. The copy reads; “The Kymulga Covered bridge is a part of Kymulga Park in Childersburg, Ala. The bridge crosses Talladega Creek which also powers an old working gristmill. The bridge, using a Howe truss design,
was built in 1861, followed by the mill in 1864.”

The Alabama Tourism Department includes Kymulga Covered bridge as one of the places to visit in the “Childersburg and Sylacauga: Family Fun” road trip #12 written by Grey Brennan and in a Covered Bridge Trail.

Both can be viewed at

To view the USA photo essay, go to:

Road Trip #12 which includes Kymulga Covered bridge can be found at

The Alabama Tourism Departments covered bridge trial is at

Gulf State Park project team applies for partnership with Hilton
By Dennis Pillion,, Nov. 20

Alabama officials are hoping to get a little help from a hospitality giant as they look to build a new Gulf State Park Lodge and meeting space on one of the state’s most breathtaking beachfront properties.

Organizers of the Gulf State Park Enhancement Project announced Friday they have applied for a partnership with Hilton Worldwide to develop a replacement for the old Gulf State Park Lodge, destroyed by Hurricane Ivan in 2004.

The new lodge would be owned and operated by the state, but Hilton would provide the franchise support system and help with reservations and sustainability initiatives.

According to project organizers, the new lodge will fit completely within the footprint of the old lodge and incorporate the latest in sustainable green building techniques for low energy usage and durability.

Cooper Shattuck, executive director of the project, said partnering with Hilton would help the lodge reach its environmental and economic goals.

“Hilton’s clear sustainability goals for reductions in energy use, carbon output, waste output, and water use are consistent with the Gulf State Park Enhancement Project,” Shattuck said in a news release. “They would make a great partner and are consistent with the vision to make the Gulf State Park an international model of economic and environmental sustainability.”

According to the news release, “Hilton would support the booking of meetings, weddings and vacations, helping to welcome everyone and improve public access to the park.”

The partnership would still have to be approved by Hilton, and then Gov. Robert Bentley, in processes that could take several months. No indication was given whether Hilton would be likely to accept the deal. Shattuck was not available for a follow-up interview Friday.

The project will be funded partially by $85.5 million in Natural Resource Damage Assessment funds stemming from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. A bill to take out a $50 million bond issue to cover the remaining costs of the project died in the Alabama Senate, but Bentley later announced that $50 million of Alabama’s $1 billion settlement with BP would go toward the project.

The planning phase of the $85 million project to improve Gulf State Park and build a lodge and meeting venue is moving forward in spite of a lawsuit aimed at stopping the project.

After the project was first announced, Bentley contracted with the University of Alabama to administer it. Shattuck, now the general counsel for the University of Alabama System, is a former legal advisor to Bentley.

The project has been the center of much controversy, including a lawsuit filed by conservation group Gulf Restoration Network, which argued the project was an inappropriate use of oil spill restoration funding.

Others strongly support the project as a way to generate revenue for the coastal economy and the Alabama State Park System, which still generates much of its revenue from Gulf State Park, even after the lodge was destroyed.

In addition to the lodge, the Enhancement Project would include construction of an environmental interpretative center and an education center, as well as dune restoration projects and new hiking and biking trails throughout the park.

The project is expected to cost $117 million and be completed in 2018.

To read this article online, go to:

New hiking trail on Forever Wild Wehle Tract in Bullock County

The Alabama State Lands Division has recently opened a new hiking trail on the Forever Wild Wehle Tract Nature Preserve and Recreation Area in Bullock County.  The trail is blazed in white and is open year-round during daylight hours.  The trailhead and parking lot are located 3.5 miles southeast of Midway, Ala., on Pleasant Hill Road/Bullock County Road 47.  Trailhead coordinates: N32.04602, W-85.46914.
Recreational activities permitted along this new trail include hiking, wildlife watching and photography.
The Wehle Tract day-use hiking trail was created to help fulfill the Forever Wild Land Trust mission of increasing access to public lands for all Alabamians.  Additionally, the Wehle Tract is home to the Wehle Land Conservation Center (WLCC), which provides outdoor educational and recreational opportunities throughout the year including a series of free “open trails” weekends.

Established in 2004, WLCC is dedicated to fostering sound land stewardship principles and promoting the understanding and appreciation of Alabama’s natural heritage through educational outreach, conservation and research. WLCC facilities include a nature center, dormitory, covered pavilion and dining hall that can be reserved for day-use or multi-day extended stay programs and events. For more information, visit or call 334-529-3003.

Site-specific reservations coming to Alabama State Parks online system

In early 2016, Alabama State Parks will phase in a major update to its recently revised online reservations system. From campsites to lodge rooms, booking your favorite overnight accommodation will be just a click away for the following nine state parks: Cheaha, DeSoto, Gulf, Joe Wheeler, Lake Guntersville, Lakepoint, Monte Sano, Oak Mountain and Wind Creek.

This fall, phase one of the new online reservation system went live, and provided more detailed information about the parks and their accommodations. On January 1, 2016, the second stage of the reservation system update will be phased in and allow for site-specific camping reservations.

When the second stage of the online reservations update is complete, campers will have added flexibility in booking their stay at the nine parks listed above. New features will include an interactive park map to pick the perfect campsite, detailed information about that campsite and expanded options when booking multiple sites.

“This has been in the works for the last year in response to customer requests for more choice when making online reservations,” said Rob Grant, Assistant Director of State Parks. “We are excited to make this new reservation system available in time for the spring camping season.”

In recent years, Alabama State Parks has increased recreational opportunities and made various customer service improvements including its updated online reservations system. From the Gulf Adventure Center at Gulf State Park to Tentsile camping at Oak Mountain, visitors are finding more activities, entertainment choices and overnight accommodations at their favorite parks.

“The revamped reservation system offers our guests much more information and choice when booking their stay online at one of these nine state parks,” said Grant. “We look forward to improving our guests’ experiences though continued customer service enhancements like this one.”

Alabama State Parks plans to eventually make the new online reservations system available for all its parks. Additionally, site-specific campsite reservations will be available by telephone once the online system update is complete. For more information about the Alabama State Parks online reservation system or to book your next stay, visit

Tuscumbia ornament features music hall of fame
By Bernie Delinski,, Nov. 23

This year’s Civitan Club Christmas ornament is a brass depiction of the Alabama Music Hall of Fame.

This is the 20th year the Civitan Club has produced an ornament featuring a Tuscumbia attraction. The ornament costs is $15. Proceeds go toward the club’s charitable and civic endeavors.

Ninon Parker, spokeswoman for the project, said organizers believe this is an ideal year to use the hall of fame depiction.

“With growing attention to Muscle Shoals music, this is the perfect year to honor the Alabama Music Hall of Fame and its role in promoting the state’s rich music heritage, and the special contributions by our own area’s talented musicians and producers,” Parker said.

“The entire Shoals area is enriched by its music, and Tuscumbia is proud to have the Alabama Music Hall of Fame in our own backyard.”

The ornament is accompanied by written information about the hall of fame, which was opened in 1990 at its U.S. 72 location.

Parker said the ornaments are available at ColdWater Books, Fiddledee D!, The Palace, Helen Keller Public Library, Alabama Music Hall of Fame, Colbert County Tourism Office, Bank Independent, First Metro Bank, Tennessee Valley Authority Credit Union, Valley Federal Credit Union and from Civitan members.

Some ornaments from previous years remain available, as well, Parker said. Photos of the ornaments can be viewed on the Tuscumbia Civitan Club’s Facebook page.

Hall of fame manager Dixie Griffin said hall of fame board members were thrilled when the club asked permission to showcase the facility for the ornament.

“This is a good time for our music and the music history in Alabama,” Griffin said. “We thought the timing was just perfect.

“The ornament is beautiful. I think it’s a great keepsake for music lovers and for people who love their community around here.”

To read this article online, go to:

Mobile’s convention business booming
By Kellie M. Dugan,, Nov. 19

Armed with a new brand, an aggressive strategy and a $450,000 boost to its 2016 budget, Visit Mobile sits poised to expand the Azalea City’s convention business to unprecedented levels in the new year.

According to figures released Thursday by the former Mobile Bay Convention and Visitors Bureau, Visit Mobile hosted a total of 110 individual conventions for fiscal year 2015, which ended Sept. 30. Combined, those bookings translated to more than 70,000 room nights shared among more than 120,000 attendees, accounting for an estimated economic impact of slightly more than $39 million.

Alabama NewsCenter
spoke with Al Hutchinson, Visit Mobile’s president and chief executive officer, about how the city “Born to Celebrate” is positioning itself to reach a broader audience; the role its comprehensive rebranding will play; and the strategies in place to ensure fiscal 2016 continues a five-year trend of obliterating booking goals.

NewsCenter: What local concerns inform how you target convention business?

Hutchinson: We’re in the business of helping our hoteliers and restaurants, and between Mardi Gras and the Senior Bowl, they don’t need much help in January and February, so our sales team’s job is to move the needle to bring more convention business, especially from March to December.

NewsCenter: Direct funding provided by BP in the wake of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster to help
Visit Mobile lure additional convention business expired with fiscal 2015. How will you offset the loss of those funds?

Hutchinson: Fortunately, the (Mobile) City Council increased its contribution to our budget for 2016 by $450,000, and we’re going to be extremely aggressive with that additional funding because more visitors means more rooms booked and more incremental tax revenue for city and county coffers.

NewsCenter: So what are your plans for your $2.65 million 2016 budget?

Hutchinson: A chunk of it will be spent on an aggressive Carnival (Cruise Line) strategy with cruises resuming from the Alabama Cruise Terminal next fall. But we’re also going to be very aggressive in our direct sales process by hosting three special client events in three key feeder markets. One will be in Montgomery because that’s the source for statewide associations looking for the best places to hold their conferences and conventions. Another will be in Atlanta because that’s our go-to market for luring corporate and regional conferences. And the third one will be in Washington, D.C., because it’s the Mecca of our national associations.

NewsCenter: How do you plan to leverage improved technology and an increased focus on digital tools to expand your reach?

Hutchinson: We obviously plan to use some of our additional funds to enhance our website, and those improvements should be ready to roll out in about 30-45 days. We know the trend now is for visitors to do almost all of their research and bookings electronically, and we want to be sure our website has the capacity to meet the needs of the new consumer. It won’t all happen at once, but we’re pretty much talking about visitors being able to go to our site and be able to do everything from book a package for the holidays or check out attractions they want to visit while they’re already here for a conference to make a dinner reservation at a particular restaurant or plan out an entire itinerary.

NewsCenter: What is your most high-profile booked convention for 2016 and why?

Hutchinson: No question, it’s the pre-K conference. It starts in January, and we were able to book them for four consecutive years, and that’s huge. Now we’re able to bring the hotel community a base business of approximately 1,300 room nights for four years straight, and if we do a great job and take care of these folks the way we know we will, we may be able to keep them for a number of years beyond that. That’s another strategic push for our sales team in the new year, finding multi-year groups of business that commit to runs of 2-3 years or more.

(Note: In addition to the 1,600-delegate pre-K conference, other high-profile future convention bookings already include the 3,500-delegate Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. conference slated to arrive in March that will account for 2,185 room nights, and the 900-delegate Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies Inc. conference slated to arrive in March 2017 that will account for 1,805 nights.)

To read this entire article, go to:

USS Alabama Battleship Commission announced selection of new Battleship Memorial Park Executive Director

The USS Alabama Battleship Commission and the USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park, the top tourist attraction in Alabama for 2015, are pleased to announce that Major General Janet Cobb, US Army Reserve, has been selected to fill the Executive Director’s position.

MG Janet Cobb joins the USS Alabama staff as the Park celebrates its 50th Anniversary since opening to the public in 1965.  She will fill the vacancy created by Bill Tunnell’s retirement after serving 19 years as the Executive Director.

Major General Cobb comes to Battleship Park with a wealth of experience from her military career and also from her experience in the real estate business.  She is the eighth Executive Director to hold the position since the Park opened.

Colonel Patrick H. Downing, the Chairman of the Battleship Commission, commenting about Major General Cobb’s hiring, said, “Her selection as the Executive Director assures us that, as we begin the next 50 years of the Park, we have the right person to lead our Memorial into that next 50 years.  Janet Cobb will bring superb leadership and management to the Park and a deep sense of commitment to our mission and our Park employees.  We are very fortunate to have someone of Janet’s caliber to occupy this very important position.”

Long-Term Reef Plan to Benefit Alabama Marine Environment
By David Rainer of AL. Dept. Conservation & Natural Resources,, Nov. 19

A brainstorming session involving the Alabama Marine Resources Division, Alabama Wildlife Federation (AWF) and the Alabama Chapter of the Coastal Conservation Association (CCA) resulted in significant implications for those who love to fish in Alabama’s saltwater environment.

The three entities concluded that their combined efforts could best be used to develop a long-term plan for Alabama’s world-renowned artificial reef program.

“Alabama’s Marine Resources Division has been a leader for decades with inshore and offshore artificial reef systems,” said AWF Executive Director Tim L. Gothard.  “The Alabama Wildlife Federation firmly believes that properly engineered artificial reefs provide ecological benefits and unique fishing opportunities for anglers – a true win-win. We were glad to partner with the Marine Resources Division and Coastal Conservation Association-Alabama to compile the Alabama Artificial Reef Plan and promote this beneficial investment of oil spill-related dollars.”

Those oil-spill related dollars that Gothard noted come in the form of grants recently announced by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) that will provide $12.5 million for habitat enhancement along the Alabama Gulf Coast. NFWF’s three-year plan is phase one of a larger 10-year artificial reef program that Marine Resources developed in conjunction with the AWF and CCA-Alabama. Visit for more information.

“We designed a 10-year plan with $42 million in projects,” Marine Resources Director Chris Blankenship said. “This NFWF project gives a good start on that 10-year plan. We’ll continue to look for funding after the first three years. We’re hoping to use the research component of this project to show the benefits of artificial reefs, that it produces fish and leads to a positive net ecological benefit that will help us seek additional funding down the road.”

The NFWF funding will be used for a variety of projects in three areas: offshore, nearshore and inshore.

“Starting with offshore, it includes money to sink two ships, one in 2017 and one in 2018,” Blankenship said. “It also includes funding to put down 140 of the 25-foot tall pyramids. We will put down a couple of those larger pyramids at each site to mimic a larger vessel. We plan to put about 600 regular pyramids in the reef zones we’re creating in the Gulf of Mexico within 9 miles of the shoreline. We are still working to have this area permitted by the Corps of Engineers.”

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers now requires cultural resource surveys to search for any shipwrecks or other historically significant bottom features.

The level of surveys required by the Corps of Engineers is very costly,” he said. “The surveys include side-scan, sub-bottom profiles and magnetometer surveys that look for metal in shipwrecks and other material. That has been the hold-up. This should help us do those surveys and get those reef zone permits processed and moving forward rapidly.”

Included in those nearshore plans is a proposed juvenile fish habitat zone of about 40 acres south of Sand Island Lighthouse. The area would provide a haven for juvenile fish to escape predation.

“We would use low-relief material, like rocks from basketball size to softball size,” Blankenship said. “This would give those red snapper from age zero and age one some cover during that transitional period before they recruit to the larger reefs. Hopefully that will help get those age zeros some protection and increase the recruitment.”

Another project involves the nearshore Minton Reef Zones south of Gulf State Park Pier and south of Perdido Pass, which will get more of the 6-foot pyramids and “eco-reefs” designed to be deployed in areas with soft bottoms.
Blankenship said the inshore plans include replenishing about 10 existing reefs with new material.

“A lot of those reefs that were built 15 or 20 years ago have settled or have silted in, and they are in need of new material,” he said. “We also plan to build at least two new reefs. One will be a fairly large reef off Point Clear that is a relic oyster reef. We haven’t decided on the other reefs, but we’re looking at areas in Mississippi Sound that would be suitable. We’re looking for places with harder bottoms. If we don’t find suitable hard bottom, we’re experimenting with the eco-reefs that won’t sink up. If those turn out to be beneficial, it really opens up the opportunities to use eco-reefs in areas where we previously couldn’t build reefs because the bottom was too soft.”

Blankenship said the eco-reefs use a piling surrounded by limestone rock. Discs are attached around the piling at varying depths to provide cover for juvenile fish and other sea life. Depending on water depth, Blankenship said from three to five discs could be attached to the piling.

“The eco-reefs have proven to be effective in the Minton Reef Zone, so now we’re looking to see if they are effective in waters like Mississippi Sound and Mobile Bay,” he said.

As for the ships that will be deployed as artificial reefs in 2017 and 2018, Blankenship said vessels similar to The LuLu, a 271-foot retired coastal freighter that was sunk 17 miles south of Perdido Pass in 2013, would be ideal.

“We’ll have to see what kind of vessels are on the market,” he said. “We’ll be looking for something between 200 and 300 feet. We hope we can find something like The Lulu that will last for decades or like the Liberty ships that were sunk in the 70s and are still providing habitat for a variety of reef fish.”

Blankenship said the NFWF funding also provides money to take advantage of “materials of opportunity.”

“As we get pipe or culvert or other material donated from construction sites, we will have money available to deploy that material as reefs,” he said. “We want to encourage companies or individuals who have these types of material to contact us (251-968-7576 or 251-861-2882) so we can stage that material at our facility in Gulf Shores and deploy the reef material both inshore and offshore.”

Blankenship said Marine Resources would contract with the University of South Alabama Marine Sciences to perform much of the research work funded through the NFWF grants. One of the research projects involves comparing the change in biomass for areas after adding artificial reefs to natural bottom without any structure.

“We’ll have the opportunity to do some studies on areas that have no reefs at all,” he said. “We’ll do a pre-deployment survey and then monitor the new reefs that were deployed over the course of three years to see how the biomass grows around those reefs. We think we will be able to provide definitive information that artificial reefs increase biomass and have a net positive ecological effect.

“We’re excited to partner with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation in this extremely important project. I’m very thankful that Governor Bentley and Commissioner (N. Gunter) Guy saw the benefit in this type of work and provided the funding.”

To read this entire article online, go to:

Governor’s Mansion open for Candlelight Tours

Gov. Bentley will open the Governor’s Mansion for candlelight tours on the first three Monday nights in December from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

Designers from across the state have volunteered their time to decorate the Governor’s Mansion and the neighboring Hill House for the candlelight tours.  “The Governor’s Mansion belongs to the people of Alabama and I want to share it with them during this wonderful season,” said Bentley.

Tickets for the tours are available free of charge at the gift shop prior to the tours each day.  The gift shop is located at 30 Finley Avenue across the street from the side entrance of the mansion.

The designers working on decorating the mansion include Jerry Thrash with Capitol’s Rosemont Gardens in Montgomery, Millie Radney with The Arrangement in Birmingham, Cathy Wayman with C. Wayman Floral & Events in Auburn, Evan G. Cooper with Evan & Company in Montgomery and Crystal Strickland with Southern Posies in Montgomery

Choirs scheduled to perform include the Trinity Presbyterian Children’s Choir from Montgomery on Dec. 7, Forrest Avenue Academic Magnet Elementary School Choir from Montgomery on Dec. 14 and Mobile’s Singing Children Choir on Dec. 21.

The Governor’s Mansion is a 1907 Colonial Revival house located at 1142 South Perry Street in Montgomery and has served as the official residence for governors of Alabama since 1951.  The neighboring Farley-Hill House became part of the Governor’s Mansion complex in 2003 and will also be open for the candlelight tours.

The mansion will be open for candlelight tours from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 7, 14 and 21.   More information is available about the Governor’s Mansion Candlelight Tours by going online at

Welcome Center Holiday Open House

Welcome Centers around the state are always helpful, friendly and welcoming to guests from around the world.  Our talented Welcome Center staffs also work with the communities where they are located.  During December they have a Holiday Open House to celebrate the holidays with food and fun.

See the Alabama Tourism Department upcoming events below for each center’s open house date.

Alabama Tourism Department (ATD) upcoming events

Nov 30 – Dec 3           Travel South International Showcase – Charlotte, NC
Dec 3                           Holiday Open House – Cleburne Welcome Center
Dec 7                           Governor’s Mansion Candlelight Tour – Montgomery
Dec 8                           Holiday Open House – Lanett & Sumter Welcome Centers
Dec 9                           Holiday Open House – DeKalb Welcome Center
Dec 10                         Holiday Open House – Ardmore & Houston Welcome Centers
Dec 14                         Governor’s Mansion Candlelight Tour – Montgomery
Dec 15                         Holiday Open House – Grand Bay Welcome Center
Dec 17                         Holiday Open House – Baldwin Welcome Center
Dec 21                         Governor’s Mansion Candlelight Tour – Montgomery


Tourism Tuesdays is a free electronic newsletter produced by the Alabama Tourism Department. It contains news about the state tourism department and the Alabama tourism industry.

The newsletter can also be accessed online by going to:

To subscribe to the weekly Alabama Tourism News, please contact Peggy Collins at:

Alabama Tourism Department