Tourism Tuesdays January 17, 2017

Southern Living showcases Alabama civil rights landmark

President Obama signs proclamation creating Birmingham Civil Rights National Memorial

Attendance figures deadline is today

Dallas Morning News profiles Tuscaloosa

Florence mayor proposes sportsplex behind Alabama Music Hall of Fame

Mound museum in Florence opens this week

Southern Makers festival moving from Montgomery to Birmingham

Pepper Place launching new winter market

Wahlburgers plans restaurant in downtown Huntsville at CityCentre

A restaurant revolution on Dauphin Island

Planned Cahaba River Park to be signature destination



Southern Living showcases Alabama civil rights landmarks
A four-page layout about civil rights landmarks in the February issue of Southern Living features photographs provided by the Alabama Tourism Department, says director Lee Sentell.

“We commissioned former Southern Living travel photographer Art Meripol to visit major landmarks for a book that won a major design award. Magazine editor Sid Evans saw the images and asked to use them for a feature during Black History Month,” he said. 

The spread opens with a large photo of Selma’s Edmund Pettus Bridge, followed by images of Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist Church, Little Rock’s Central High School, the Woolworth’s “sit in” lunch counter in Greensboro, N.C., and the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.

The magazine editors approached U.S. Rep. John Lewis, a native of Troy, to comment on the sites for the article. Southern Living is sold in Books-A-Million stores, grocery stores, and where magazines and books are sold. Editor Evans draws attention to the feature in his column near the front of the magazine. 

Meripol’s photos were the centerpiece of a 2015 publication promoting civil rights landmarks as potential World Heritage Sites. The book “What Happened Here Changed the World” received the American Advertising Federation’s national silver award for book design. The Birmingham ad agency Luckie & Company designed the book around Sentell’s concept of vintage and current photos of landmarks.

Meripol photographed the department’s “Alabama Barbecue” book that was distributed during 2015’s The Year of Alabama Barbecue. 

President Obama signs proclamation creating Birmingham Civil Rights National Memorial
From the article by Erin Edgemon on

In one of his last acts as president, Barack Obama on Thursday signed a proclamation designating the Birmingham Civil Rights District as a national monument.

The designation is expected to have a significant economic impact on the Magic City and bring a national spotlight to the pivotal role Birmingham played in the struggle for racial equality in the 1960s.

According to the National Park Service, every dollar invested in national parks or monuments generates $10 in economic activity.

“This is a transformative designation for the city of Birmingham,” Birmingham Mayor William Bell said. “To have our story not only recognized, but secured for generations to come will change the way we are able to go after federal funding, improve our neighborhoods and continue to acknowledge the contribution of Birmingham, the city that broke the back of segregation and changed the world.”

Bell, U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Alabama, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, National Parks Conservation Association and others have campaigned for the Birmingham Civil Rights District’s inclusion in the national park system for a number of months.

How the Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument will be managed in partnership with the city of Birmingham has yet to be determined, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell said in an October visit to Magic City. The planning could take months, if not years, and will involve a series of community meetings.

Bell said the National Park Service has committed to contributing at least $300,000 annually to the monument. 

The national monument will include portions of the Historic Birmingham Civil Rights District, including the A.G. Gaston Motel, the neighboring Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, the 16th Street Baptist Church, Bethel Baptist Church, Kelly Ingram Park, the Colored Masonic Temple, St. Paul United Methodist Church and portions of the 4th Avenue Business District.

Obama also signed a proclamation designating the Freedom Riders Park in Anniston a national monument.

The monument includes the Greyhound Bus Station where a racially integrated bus of Freedom Riders attempting to test desegregation was attacked in the spring of 1961, and the site where the same bus was firebombed and burned some minutes later.

Obama’s declarations are possible under the Antiquities Act of 1906. Historic landmarks declared by public proclamation are called national monuments.

Established in 1906, the Antiquities Act has been used by 16 presidents from Theodore Roosevelt to Obama.

Sewell also introduced legislation in March 2016 to create a Birmingham Civil Rights National Historical Park in an effort to secure bipartisan support for the designation. That bill stalled in committee.

“Today, Birmingham takes its rightful place as the epicenter of the fight for Civil Rights in America,” Sewell said in a written statement. “President Obama in signing the executive order creates a national monument that incorporates the sites of Birmingham’s Civil Rights District into the National Park System ensuring its preservation for future generations. It is such a great tribute to the people of the city of Birmingham that President Obama would make this designation as one of his last actions before leaving the White House.”

Theresa Pierno, president and CEO of National Parks Conservation Association issued this statement:

“The events in Birmingham opened our eyes to the plight of so many African Americans facing discrimination in the South, and ultimately led to the abolition of segregation laws. Places like the 16th Street Baptist Church and Kelly Ingram Park were pivotal in the struggle for civil rights, and are truly deserving of national park status. These important places should be protected and their stories told. And no group is better suited to do this than the National Park Service.”

Brent Leggs, senior field officer for preservation division for the National Trust for Historic Preservation, said national parks and national monuments are created through different means, but they are treated the same by the National Park Service.

The Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument is in the same national park system as the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone.

On Jan. 9, Birmingham Mayor William Bell conveyed a portion of the A.G. Gaston Motel to the United States making the property federal lands. This was required for the national monument designation.

Properties in the footprint of the National Park Service maintain their autonomy and normal, everyday function but get the benefit of technical assistance, maintenance assistance, marketing a programming assistance and park rangers, according to the mayor’s office.

Jewell and National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis visited Birmingham on Oct. 27, 2016 to tour historic sites connected with the civil rights movement. Dozens of city leaders and residents shared their support for a national park during a public meeting that evening at 16th Street Baptist Church.

The national park will likely center around the A.G. Gaston Motel, which Birmingham Mayor William Bell called the motel “ground zero” for the civil rights movement in 1963.

Activists in Birmingham launched Project C, also known as The Birmingham Campaign, in the spring of 1963. The campaign — designed to end segregation through mass protests, marches and sit-ins — and the violence it sparked became a major turning pointed in the civil rights movement.

The Gaston Motel, which was built by black entrepreneur A.G. Gaston in 1954, was the headquarters for the campaign and for Martin Luther King when he was in Birmingham. Room 30 was a second floor suite known as the “war room.” King held press conferences at the motel, wrote parts of the “I Have a Dream” speech and planned the march on Washington.

The peaceful demonstrations were met with attacks by high-pressure fire hoses and police dogs. More than 900 children were arrested during a mass protest in Kelly Ingram Park on May 3, 1963.

Violent attacks continued, though, including the Sept. 15 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church that killed Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson and Carol Denise McNair. Another 22 people were injured.

During his October visit, Jarvis said he is particularly interested in the Gaston Motel. “This is a great piece of the (Civil Rights) story that is not well told,” he said.

For the complete article please see

Attendance figures deadline is today

The Alabama Tourism Department is asking representatives of state attractions and events to turn in their attendance figures for the year 2016. These attendance figures are the basis for the annual “Top 10” listings. The figures serve as a vital guide for state government, local organizations and the media.

* In order for you to be counted we must have your data by Tuesday, Jan. 17. The online reporting process should take less than 5 minutes to complete.

Please follow this link to enter your attendance figures:  

Note: There is only one event or attraction per online form and only one classification can be chosen.  The Alabama Tourism Department reserves the right for final determination of classifications.

Dallas Morning News profiles Tuscaloosa

(Editor’s note: Brian Jones with the Alabama Tourism Department and Brandt LaPish with Tuscaloosa Tourism & Sports hosted travel writer Judith Fein and photographer Paul Ross in October for a weekend tour of Tuscaloosa.  The following article appeared last week in the Dallas Morning News)

From the article “You’ll find more than ‘Bama football to tide you over when you roll into Tuscaloosa” by Judith Fein in The Dallas Morning News:

Any thoughts about Tuscaloosa being provincial are immediately dispelled when you check out Tuscaloosa restaurants. For instance, Chris Hastings, who presides at Side by Side, won the Iron Chef competition and is a James Beard Award-winning chef. Offerings range from rabbit tamales to boudin and shrimp and the tomato salad that made him famous.

After food, art. Lots of art. 

The biggest event of the year, Kentuck, takes place in October, and, over the course of a weekend, visitors have the chance to buy outsider, visionary and folk art directly from hundreds of artists at affordable prices. While the buyers look and ponder, they are accompanied by live rock, rockabilly, folk-punk, zydeco and blues musicians. Many of the artists are self-taught, some are well known in art circles and their work is highly collectible; others are just waiting to be discovered.

In the federal courthouse, artist Caleb O’Connor created l6 murals that depict seminal events in western Alabama history. Reportedly, one of the reasons the figures in the paintings are so lifelike is that locals paid to be depicted as historic figures, and some even had their dogs volunteer as models.

Completed a few years ago, the murals brilliantly evoke the burning of the University of Alabama during the Civil War; the Tuskegee Airmen; the Indian Removal Act of 1830; the attempt by then-governor George Wallace to block desegregation at the university; and a healing, purifying sacred American Indian fire ceremony at Moundville.

If you are intrigued by Moundville Archaeological Park, which today is the best-preserved site of its kind in North America, it’s a 20-minute drive to visit the evocative remains of what was once the largest and most powerful political and religious center in the Southeast.

The museum has a wealth of artifacts like a rattlesnake disk, a cat monster, pottery created from clay mixed with mussel shells, and numerous examples of the eye-in-a-hand motif. Through exhibits, lifelike dioramas and video, the fascinating history and mystery of the early inhabitants of the area is told.

If the weather is good, grab tickets to a concert at the outdoor, 7,400-seat Tuscaloosa Amphitheater, where the music ranges from rap to Motown to gospel to folk. Not only can you walk there from downtown, but you can go for a stroll along the paved Riverwalk, where nature surrounds you, bikes and kayaks are available for rent, and paddle boats appear sporadically on the Black Warrior River.

Of course, all great cities have a museum or two, and Tuscaloosa is no exception. The Tuscaloosa Museum of Art houses the eclectic but mostly Western art collection of magnate Jack Warner. Surprisingly, the building’s style is historical Japanese, but the treasures are decidedly American. Of special note are portraits of George Washington, American Indian-themed paintings by George Catlin, and works by Jamie Wyeth, Ernest Blumenschein and Edward Hopper.

For shopping, stroll the streets downtown and discover trendy stores with a local flavor. And if consignment is your thing, head for Twice Is Nice, which sells everything from designer clothes to outsider art. It’s next door to Jim Harrison’s art gallery, which features l8th- and l9th-century landscapes on the ground floor, and exciting, frequently changing shows upstairs.

In between activities, you’ll want to try some more of the new and notable Tuscaloosa eateries. Holler and Dash, known for its killer gourmet biscuits, serves breakfast specialties like Andouille Hustle and Flying Frittata; healthy options have biscuits replaced by kale. Try Five restaurant for Sunday brunch, and indulge in chicken and waffles and shrimp and grits. 301 Bistro, in a restored 1912 train station, excels at casual fare. And it’s worth the drive to l5th Avenue East for the original Dreamland BBQ. Grab a wad of paper towels and chow down on ribs that dreams are made of.

Want to make some new friends while you’re in town? Remember to say “Roll Tide” in this football-crazy town, and you’ll experience huge smiles and real Southern hospitality.

For the complete article please see

Florence mayor proposes sportsplex behind Alabama Music Hall of Fame

From the article by Bernie Delinski in the Times Daily:

Mayor Kerry Underwood sees the Alabama Music Hall of Fame as a major attraction for the region. He also sees a plot of unused land behind it.

That has Underwood envisioning a development that could serve as an attraction for the city and hall of fame.

The new mayor wants to study the idea of having a sports complex in an open field behind the hall of fame. He said that would be ideal for tournaments.

The complex would have four fields for baseball and softball use, with a center building that would provide concessions on the ground floor and a window-encased top floor for scorekeepers and other tournament officials.

“We could give it a name appropriate for where it is, something along the line of Music Heritage Park, or anything that ties it into the hall of fame and the area’s musical heritage,” Underwood said.

He plans to meet soon with state tourism and Alabama Music Hall of Fame officials on the matter.

Underwood has shared the idea with state Tourism Director Lee Sentell, who said they will meet with members of the hall of fame.

“I look forward to giving the mayor an opportunity to speak to the music hall of fame board about the vision he has for the property behind the music hall of fame,” Sentell said. “I’m sure various members of the board will have some questions and would like to hear it explained. We look forward to hearing details and any specifics he can share.”

“We are determining what the process would be from the state government regarding any transfer of property. We are still in the beginning of this discussion, and look forward to visiting with the mayor.”

Sentell said he is pleased to see Underwood’s initiative in creating tourism for the city and hall of fame.

“I was impressed that right after his election he reached out to us to discuss this project,” Sentell said.

Underwood said he is seeking input on cost estimates and ways to fund the project.

He said Tuscumbia will pay off some 10-year bonds in 2019 that cost the city $270,000 a year. The savings from retiring the bonds could go toward this project.

“Within a two-year timeframe, we could get the park built and have a payment method,” Underwood said.

He said the project could involve a sort of walk of fame that would recognize members of the Colbert County Sports Hall of Fame. He envisions concrete markers on the ground, with each square representing a class of the hall of fame.

He believes the idea of having an event within walking distance of the Alabama Music Hall of Fame would help entice travel teams and others to take part in a tournament at the location.

Coldwater Inn is across U.S. 72 from the hall of fame, which would provide a convenient hotel location for families in the tournaments. In addition, Underwood pointed out there are proposals for developing Veterans Boulevard, which is directly off U.S. 72 alongside Coldwater Inn. There also is a RV park that would be adjacent to the sports complex.

“I have high hopes that this would be the beginning of a pivot for that part of the city,” Underwood said.

For the complete article please see

Mound museum in Florence opens this week
From the article by Robert Palmer in the Times Daily:

The new museum in the shadow of the Native American mound near the Tennessee River will open its doors to the public Wednesday.

“It’s a small but beautiful museum,” said Libby Jordan, manager of the city museum system. “It’s going to be a beautiful complement to the rest of the museums in the city.”

The $1.76 million museum has been under construction for about six months. It replaces an aging, dilapidated structure that was more than 50 years old. The construction money came from a $19 million capital projects bond approved by the City Council more than three years ago.

The museum opens at 10 a.m. There is a small admission charge.

Artifacts and other material related to Native Americans who inhabited the area for thousands of years will be on display. The mound, which archaeologists say is about 2,000 years old, was used for ceremonial purposes.

Half the building is a meeting space that may be used for school field trips and small community events. The other half houses the museum, which is designed to resemble a cave that is being excavated by archaeologists, and a woodland setting similar to what Native Americans would have known several hundred years ago. Murals depict various aspects of Native American life.

“The exhibits are state of the art, top-notch,” said Calvin Durham, the Florence architect who designed the building.

The museum faces the north side of the mound, and the glass reflects it. Durham said he designed it so the mound is visible from almost every point inside the museum.

“That’s why the museum is there,” he said.

The site of the museum is tight and oddly shaped. Durham said making it fit was a challenge.

“I tried to make it fit into the environment and complement the mound,” he said. “It is kind of curved around the mound, and some of the design elements mimic the mound.” 

The Alabama Department of Archives and History has loaned the museum a collection of Native American jewelry, Jordan said.

“It’s an art of adornment display. It includes ear bobs, necklaces, armbands — things Native Americans wore,” she said. “It will be on display for two months.”

Rotating exhibits will be a part of the experience of visiting the museum, she said.

A new alarm system has been installed that will make the collection safer. Durham said as a result, the museum has received offers from collectors and others to display their artifacts.

For the complete article please see

Southern Makers festival moving from Montgomery to Birmingham

From the article by Kelly Poe on

The popular festival Southern Makers will move from Montgomery to Birmingham this year. 

This will be the fifth year of the festival, which showcases goods and products of more than 200 of Alabama’s farmers, builders, artists designers and craftspeople.

 Until now, it’s been held in Montgomery. Last year, the festival announced a second festival to take place in Birmingham, but it was later canceled due to a conflict with Birmingham’s Artwalk.

The venue and date have not been finalized. Last year, Southern Makers was held in early May. 

“There has been an outpouring of requests for there to be multiple events in different locations,” Southern Makers said in a press release “As much as we would love to do this, we currently only have the capacity to organize one event per year.”

Previous participants in Southern Makers have included G Momma’s Cookies, Revelator Coffee, Stone Hollow Farmstead, Back Forty Beer Company and Great Bear Wax Co. 

For the complete article please see

Pepper Place launching new winter market

From the article by Tim Steere in the Birmingham Business Journal

Birmingham’s popular Pepper Place Market is putting its hat and gloves on.

The Market at Pepper Place will hold its first Winter Farmers Market every Saturday, 8 a.m.-noon, starting Jan. 28 and lasting through April 1. The winter market will be primarily indoors, but will continue to offer year-round produce, flowers, doughnuts and coffee, along with the other traditional items found at Pepper Place on Saturdays.

“It will be small, since we’re just getting started, and set up inside the Pepper Place Pop-up so we don’t have to worry about winter weather,” Leigh Sloss-Cora, executive director of the Market at Pepper Place, told Alabama NewsCenter. “But it’s going to be beautiful and fun and full of amazing variety. You can’t believe how much wonderful produce farmers are able to grow with the help of greenhouses, high tunnels, and new techniques and technology.”

The winter market will be held inside the Pepper Place Pop-Up space at 2825 Second Ave. S.

For the complete article please see

Wahlburgers plans restaurant in downtown Huntsville at CityCentre

From the article by Paul Gattis on

With a passing out of green caps adorned with the company’s logo, Wahlburgers announced plans last week to open a restaurant in downtown Huntsville.

The gourmet burger joint will be a part of the CityCentre at Big Spring, the new development at the site of the former Holiday Inn at Monroe Street and Williams Avenue near the Von Braun Center.

A formal groundbreaking was also held for the development, but the Wahlburgers restaurant – to be a part of the AC by Marriott hotel – stole the spotlight. It will be the first Wahlburgers location in Alabama.

Paul Wahlberg – the brother of movie star Mark Wahlberg – started the restaurant chain in the Boston suburb of Hingham. A reality show on the A&E network provides a behind-the-scenes look at the business.

“We have full service, counter service as well as a full bar,” said Gina Buell, the Wahlburgers franchisee in Huntsville.

“So it’s going to be great for grabbing a bite with the kids before or after a game or it’s going to be great after coming to all the downtown events. We are perfect for any guest any time.”

The previously-announced hotel – also an Alabama first – along with the Wahlburgers is expected to be open for business in early 2018, according to Michael Amaral, executive VP of the Yedla Management Group, which will operate the hotel.

Amaral said there are currently only 17 AC by Marriott hotels in the United States with 157 luxury hotels worldwide. The Huntsville hotel will have 121 rooms.

“The AC brand markets itself as a European-style luxury offering with a design that appeals to the X and Y generational traveler,” Amaral said. “The hotel features a contemporary room design, event space, a fitness space and offers the AC kitchen, which offers the European-designed breakfast and the AC lounge, which features hand-crafted cocktails and tap and small-plate food items.”

CityCentre is being developed by Huntsville-based RCP Companies. RCP Director Odie Fakhouri pointed to the spirit of Huntsville as being a major asset in recruiting companies to invest in the Rocket City.

The hotel and accompanying Wahlburgers makes up Phase 1 of the project. Detailed plans have yet to be unveiled on Phase 2.

“This is one of these days a lot of us have been anticipating for a long time,” Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle said. “We’re going to see some great things out of this project. But really, this comes down to one thing: It makes our city just a little bit better place. It makes us a beautiful city.”

For the complete article please see

A restaurant revolution on Dauphin Island

From the article by Michelle Matthews on

Dauphin Island, population 1,283, is having a revolution, but not a single shot has been fired. With several new restaurants opening and a remarkable diversity of offerings, the laid-back residents are experiencing an uprising of upstart eateries.

Today, diners can find “so much more than a fried seafood platter,” said Gene Fox, who owns Fins Bar on the main drag, Bienville Boulevard. “There are things you don’t expect to find on Dauphin Island.”

The bearded, affable Fox, who stands 6’4″, prides himself on knowing just about everyone who lives on the barrier island. He and his son, a third-grader at Dauphin Island Elementary, have called it home for the past seven years. Two years ago, he opened Fins. Last fall, he ran for office.

“It’s got a small-town sense of community you don’t find anywhere,” he said. “Next thing you know, you’re on the town council.”

In December, he started serving sandwiches from the new kitchen inside the popular bar he owns with Doug Houston, a well-known outdoorsman and former TV show host who founded the “Kids Wishn’ to Go Fishin'” program at the Alabama Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo. Houston has lived on the island for 13 years.

Lifting a glass

The building that houses Fins “has been about 15 things,” said Fox – from its beginning as the Dairy Isle in the 1950s, the place where everyone went for cheeseburgers and chocolate shakes, to its last incarnation as the Deep End bar, with all the windows boarded up.

One of the first things Fox and Houston did was remove the sheets of metal and layers of paint covering the windows, and they were delighted to find that the building actually has a stunning view of the water and the Dauphin Island Bridge in the distance. They also made Fins a non-smoking establishment from the beginning.

Fox has expanded the courtyard area behind the bar four times since opening. “Everything out here is homemade,” he said, pointing to the centerpiece, a 26-foot piece of driftwood that came from the Causeway. Among the other treasures: an old boat “that washed up into Perry Zirlott’s front yard after Hurricane Katrina” and is now an Adirondack chair; a life raft made into a couch; the bow of a ’76 Stauter boat; and a dock master’s bench from the year Fox served as president of the fishing rodeo.

It was on that bench that Fox and Houston made a deal to open the bar together. “Three months later” – after a lot of power-washing and renovating – “we were open,” Fox said.

Soon, Fins became known for ice cream sandwich bushwhackers, Caribbean atmosphere and live bands. The bar also employs longtime Dauphin Island bartender “Mama Sue,” who, at 73, will insult customers who pay her a little extra to do so. “She’s a force of nature,” said Fox.

In the off-season, “We make our own events,” said Fox – including cook-offs. The upcoming Little Red School House Chili and Wings Cook-off, which takes place Saturday, Jan. 14, has raised $6,000 for Dauphin Island Elementary School and to help pay to move the historic school house; the next phase is to renovate and re-purpose it.

In recent months, Fox converted some unused space into a kitchen, and in December Fins became a full-fledged restaurant. “It was always in the plan to add food, but I didn’t want to be another fried shrimp place,” Fox said. “I wanted something different.”

He started by creating the ultimate muffaletta, a New Orleans specialty sandwich that’s a perfect fit because of Dauphin Island’s French heritage. He and his fiancee went to 15 places sampling the sandwiches “all the way to Westwego, La.,” he said.

“I got in the kitchen and came up with this,” he said, showing off a toasty sandwich piled high with meat and cheese and topped with olive salad. The whole sandwich (which is enough to feed at least four people) weighs nearly 3 pounds, he said.

“We’ve had a few customers who say they’re muffaletta experts and we hit it on the head,” Houston bragged.

Other offerings, which are written on a chalkboard menu every day, include “a gyro that will make you Greek and a turkey Reuben that will knock your socks off,” said Fox – all served with Zapp’s potato chips.

Something different

Though Fox is enjoying his new role as restaurateur, he’s quick to boast about his friends who are also in the restaurants business on the island.

“We were the winning courtyard until Dority’s showed up,” Fox said, referring to the nearby Dority’s Bar and Grill, which opened just three months ago.

Though Theresa Dority describes it as “a work in progress,” the neat courtyard behind the restaurant is dotted with large live oaks and includes a comfortable covered deck, a concrete patio, a stage for live music, fire pits and cornhole games. Outside dining is also available on the deep front porch.

Theresa and her husband Dale had retired and moved from Mobile to Dauphin Island two years ago, but soon they found themselves out of retirement, opening a restaurant. Their daughters, Christy and Hali, work with them in the family business.

Serving lunch and dinner, Dority’s is known for its French dip sandwiches, the “Kiki” burger and other specials that change daily.

In homage to the Dority family’s “other” business – Gulf gas stations – the restaurant is decorated with memorabilia and old black-and-white photos, including one of Dale’s grandfather’s first station from 1955. “The station was a community hangout at one time,” said Dale, and now so is his restaurant.

Michael and Lacey Curtis opened another popular new eatery, Miguel’s Beach’n Baja, a little more than a year ago. Offering takeout and deliver only, Miguel’s combines “West Coast flavor with Gulf Coast soul,” said Lacey, who grew up vacationing on Dauphin Island and married Mike, a California native who fell in love with the place.

The couple opened Miguel’s after operating the Cruzin’ Taco food truck in Mobile for a while. They serve “California food truck food on Dauphin Island,” Lacey said – such as street tacos and quesadillas. “We wanted something here that’s different.”

It’s a familiar refrain among the successful new businesses.

Down near the ferry landing, Allen Johnston is serving cappuccinos and other coffee drinks from a window at Billy Goat Concessions, which will soon change its name to BGH Cafe. “It’s not just a hot dog stand,” said Fox. “They’ve got Cuban sandwiches, barbecue, a huge variety. It’s not what you expect.”

Customers rave over breakfast sandwiches, homemade pies, salted caramel lattes and more.

Then there’s John Golson’s I R Italian (“I R” stands for “Island Rainbow”), which specializes in traditional Italian fare like lasagna, shrimp Scampi and chicken Parmesan at night. During the day, the restaurant serves Philly steak sandwiches, beach burgers, lunch specials like red beans and rice and, most important to Fox, the island’s first salad bar.

“It’s a funky little place,” said Fox. “It stays packed.”

Fox seems to know that he and the other restaurant owners are on to something good on the island they love so much. “You’d expect something like this in Fairhope, not on Dauphin Island,” he said of Dority’s, with its welcoming front porch and well-decorated interior. “Five years ago, you had to get lunch at the Chevron or the Circle K.

“It’s the new Dauphin Island.”

Even so, he said, residents don’t want to change too much. “We still don’t have a traffic light, and don’t want one.”

For the complete article please see

Planned Cahaba River Park to be signature destination

From the article by Stephen Dawkins in the Shelby County Reporter:

The Cahaba River is among the most scenic and biologically diverse waterways in the United States, and the public will soon have more access to a portion of the river in Shelby County.

Work is under way on the planned Cahaba River Park, a 1,500-acre site with recreational trails and canoe launch sites near the Bibb County line in western Shelby County.

“We see this as being another signature destination,” County Manager Alex Dudchock said about parks such as Oak Mountain State Park that bring visitors to Shelby County while also benefitting local residents. “We want to give people access to the Cahaba River to understand what value it has.”

The river will split the park into two sites with different amenities.

The north side, which is being called the Helena/Hoover Sector, includes most of the park’s acreage. The sector comprises 1,212 acres of Forever Wild property and 127 acres of county property.

Cahaba River Park is a Shelby County venture that is being developed in conjunction with Forever Wild Land Trust, an initiative of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

“One of the things they look at is making sure people can access it,” Chad Scroggins, Shelby County manager of development services, said about the Forever Wild property.

Access to the Helena/Hoover Sector will be from Shelby County 13 to Shelby County 251. Shelby County 13 runs through Helena.

Improvements to Shelby County 251, or River Road on the north side of the Cahaba River, are about 75 percent complete.

Other planned work includes trails for mountain biking, hiking and trail running; multiple parking locations at trailheads; canoe launch sites; a pavilion and restroom facility; and a caretaker’s house for a law enforcement officer.

Dudchock and Scroggins said the Helena/Hoover Sector will feature about 15 miles of professionally designed trails and multiple canoe launch sites that will allow for short trips or runs as long as 7 miles.

Cahaba lilies, a flower that can be found in the river and only a few other places in the Southeast, are present in parts of the park, Dudchock said.

Part or all of the Helena/Hoover Sector could be opened to the public in the fall, even if work remains.

“We’re not looking at delaying access until everything is completed,” Dudchock said.

The south side of the river, which is being called the Boothton/Montevallo Sector, comprises 188 acres of Shelby County property.

Access to this sector will be from Shelby County 10 to the south side of Shelby County 251. Shelby County 10 runs southeast to Montevallo.

The site where Shelby County 251 meets the Cahaba River has been a popular gathering place where people would drive vehicles across a concrete slab in the river, but officials stressed that there will be no access for motorized vehicles across the river.

A tar-and-gravel pavement installation at Shelby County 251 has been completed, and a canoe launch location is being planned, officials said.

Future plans for the sector include all-terrain vehicle trails, non-motorized/multiuse trails and a caretaker’s house.

Dudchock said the county would also pursue opportunities for additional parcels.

Motorized vehicles will not be allowed on the trails in the Helena/Hoover Sector, but Dudchock said it was important to allow space for all types of recreation at the park.

“We want people to have an avenue for motorized access,” he said.

For the complete article please see




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