Tourism Tuesdays October 23, 2018

Gov. Ivey Awards $2.7 Million to enhance Recreational Trails Program in Alabama

The 2019 Alabama Bass Trail Tournament Series sells out in record time

Southern Living hotel project downtown moving forward

Birmingham’s Avondale grows up while holding to gritty past

Alabama’s Wickles Pickles are more than just a jar of pickles, here’s why

“Partner Pointer” for the tourism industry website


Gov. Ivey Awards $2.7 Million to enhance Recreational Trails Program in Alabama
Alabama’s outdoor recreational opportunities will soon increase thanks to $2.7 million in grants awarded by Gov. Kay Ivey. The funds will help expand or build trails or trail amenities at 10 sites in Alabama to enhance recreation outlets. An additional grant will provide equipment for improving state trails.

“Alabama is a land of bountiful natural beauty, and our state and local trails are a means to experience and enjoy that outdoor splendor,” Gov. Ivey said. “I am pleased to award these grants, and I encourage everyone to enjoy these and any of the many other trails in our state.”

The grants were awarded from funds made available to the state from the Federal Highway Administration’s Recreational Trails Program. The Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs administers the program in Alabama.

“Trails come in many forms and magnitudes, but they provide character and so much more to our communities,” ADECA Director Kenneth Boswell said. “I join with Gov. Ivey in commending those who work so diligently to make these recreational outlets available for all to enjoy.”

Grants awarded by Gov. Ivey:
Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources– $109,600 to construct new footbridges and other improvements at the Walls of Jericho tract in Jackson County.

Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources– $34,400 to purchase trail construction and maintenance equipment to be used on state lands properties.

City of Scottsboro– $418,497 to expand the Goose Pond Colony boat ramp to eight lanes, including making it accessible to people with limited mobility and expanding a boardwalk to increase public fishing availability.

Town of Section– $156,257 to provide parking and restrooms at the 13.5-acre Weatherington Park that is situated on a bluff overlooking the Tennessee River in Jackson County.

City of Guntersville– $320,000 to extend the Guntersville Trail enabling people to walk, run or bike from downtown Guntersville to along the Tennessee River waterfront.

Cullman County Commission– $291,294 to construct a bathhouse/restroom facility at Stony Lonesome OHV Park.

City of Valley– $277,200 to repair and resurface the 6.9-mile-long, multi-purpose Chattahoochee Valley Railroad Trail and install amenities like fencing and benches.

Alabama Historical Commission (Old Cahawba Archaeological Park)– $400,000 to build a multi-use concrete trail at Old Cahawba in Dallas County, connecting many of the park’s main features; building an equestrian trail and constructing additional bathrooms.

City of Luverne– $90,772 to resurface an existing asphalt walking trail at E.L. Turner Park as part of an overall renovation of the facility.

City of Andalusia– $400,000 to acquire a 16-mile-long abandoned railroad line for conversion into the multi-purpose Wiregrass Trail Corridor connecting four Covington County municipalities.

City of Daphne– $210,205 to construct a wooden boardwalk connecting several trails at Village Point Park.

The 2019 Alabama Bass Trail Tournament Series sells out in record time
Tournament officials announce registration is closed for the 2019 Alabama Bass Trail Tournament Series (ABTTS), with all 450 of the available boat entries in the North and South divisions selling out in a record 39 days. The 2019 tournament series gets underway Feb. 16.

“Wow is all I can say when thinking about both divisions selling out in less than 40 days. We are thankful to the anglers who believe in our staff and commit not only their finances but their time as well to travel the great state of Alabama and fish with us,” said Kay Donaldson, program director for the Alabama Bass Trail. “This is the quickest we have sold out to date. The record was 72 days but the 2019 registration sold out in 39 days.”

Sanctioned by BASS (Bass Anglers Sportsman Society), the ABTTS contains two divisions, North and South, and each division is made up of five tournaments on five different lakes. The maximum number of boats for each tournament is 225. Teams must fish in all five tournaments in their respective division and no single entries are allowed.

“Anglers pay in advance for each division and we actually have multiple teams that fish both divisions,” added Donaldson. “Our teams are made up highly competitive bass fisherman from across nine states.”

According to Donaldson, teams are traveling from nine states, Ala., Tenn., Miss., Geo., Fla., S.Car., Mo., Ky. and Ohio, to compete in the 2019 tournament series. The 2018 Tournament Series generated an economic impact on the Alabama economy of over $3.8 million, up from $3.1 million in 2017. The trail consists of five regular season events in each division and a championship.

Dates and locations for the 2019 tournament series are as follows:
South Division:
Feb. 16, 2019   Lake Martin / hosted by Alexander City Chamber of Commerce
Mar. 30, 2019   Lake Jordan / hosted by the City of Wetumpka
April 20, 2019   Alabama River / Cooter’s Pond / hosted by City of Prattville Parks and Recreation
May 18, 2019   Lay Lake / hosted by Shelby County Commission
June 15, 2019   Lake Eufaula / hosted by Eufaula-Barbour Chamber of Commerce

North Division:
Feb. 23, 2019   Smith Lake / hosted by the Chamber of Commerce of Walker Co.
Mar. 23, 2019   Wheeler Lake / hosted by Decatur Morgan County Tourism
April 27, 2019   Weiss Lake / hosted by City of Leesburg
May 11, 2019   Pickwick Lake / hosted by Florence-Lauderdale Tourism
June 8, 2019   Neely Henry Lake / hosted by the City of Gadsden

The championship event will include up to 185 boats. The 185 boats are comprised of the 10 divisional tournament winning teams, top 75 teams in points from both divisions that fished all five events in their respective divisions, along with the top 15 student boats, top five college teams and the top five couples teams collectively from both divisions that fished all five events in their respective division.

Each tournament features a $10,000 guaranteed first place prize and pays 40 places totaling over $47,000. In conjunction with the Alabama Bicentennial celebration in 2019, an additional $200 bonus prize will be awarded at each tournament to the team that finishes in the 200th place. The winning team of the championship walks away with a fully rigged bass boat valued at $45,000; there is a $5,000 bonus cash prize for Angler of the Year and $2,500 for runner-up Angler of the Year. According to Donaldson, over $568,000 in cash and prizes will be awarded when the ABTTS wraps up its season in 2019.

2019 Payout Schedule:
First place   $10,000
Second place   $5,000
Third place   $4,000
Fourth place   $3,000
Fifth place   $2,000
Sixth place   $1,500
Seventh place   $1,100
Eighth place   $1,100
Ninth place   $1,100
Tenth place   $1,100
11th – 20th   $750 each
21st – 40th   $500 each
200th Place Bonus   $200

ABT Tournament sponsors include Phoenix Bass Boats; Bill Penney Toyota; the Alabama Tourism Department; America’s First Federal Credit Union; Academy Sports & Outdoors; Garmin; T & H Marine Supplies, Inc.; Alabama Power Company; Buffalo Rock, Inc.; Jack’s; Wedowee Marine; Trapper Tackle; Lews Fishing;; Power-Pole; YETI and Hydrowave. Pond MD will manage fish care and Southern Stream Live will be the live-streaming company.

About Alabama Bass Trail
The Alabama Bass Trail is a program of the Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association. Its mission is to promote Alabama as a year-round fishing destination, to preserve natural resources for generations to come, and to educate high school and college-aged students to be good stewards of natural resources. The 13 bass fishing lakes consist of Lake Guntersville, Wheeler Lake, Pickwick Lake, Lewis Smith Lake, Neely Henry Lake, Weiss Lake, Lake Martin, Lay Lake, Logan Martin Lake, Lake Jordan, Alabama River, Lake Eufaula, and the Mobile-Tensaw River Delta. For more information, visit

Southern Living hotel project downtown moving forward
From the article by Brian Woodham on

Bo Jackson and Birmingham chef Chris Hastings will have a hand in the Southern Living hotel development planned for downtown Auburn, according to new information released to The Villager.

The proposed mixed-use project — which took a step forward this week when the Auburn City Council approved a non-binding memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the city and developers by a 7-1 vote, would feature the first signature Bo Jackson’s Prime 34 Steakhouse and a Southern grill developed by Chris Hastings, the 2012 James Beard “Best Chef in the South,” according to a release from Lifestyle+Hotel Group, the hotel developer and operator of the proposed project.

The project would bring to downtown Auburn one of the country’s first Southern Living hotels, which would include the Jackson and Hastings’ restaurants as well as the Great Southern Bakery and Coffee House, featuring 50 years of Southern Living bakery recipes, and an entire floor of meeting and function space anchored by the Southern Life Studio culinary theater and a rooftop lounge showcasing a wood-burning kitchen.

“We are so excited to bring this new and revolutionary lifestyle hotel to downtown Auburn,” said Bill Shoaf, CEO of LHG. “We have been discussing the concepts and programming for this hotel with Southern Living for more than a year and are very excited to begin on the specific design for the hotel and restaurants.”

A 17,000 square-foot anchor retail store, 12,000 square feet of additional retail shops, and game-day condominiums would also be included in addition to the 102-room Southern Living hotel.

With the MOU approved, the city and developer will now begin work on a legally-binding development agreement.

“The new council will be the final authority on this as far as approving the development agreement,” said Mayor-elect Ron Anders. “That will happen after the Downtown Design Review team thoroughly evaluates this project, so I can promise you that the new council will have plenty of time to understand this project and gather all the information that our citizens will need to have their questions answered.”

If the agreement is approved by the new council, it’s anticipated that construction on the project would start in the third quarter of 2019.

The MOU approved by the City Council on Tuesday also outlines a land swap, or sale, between the city and master developers Harvest Capital Group and Godbold Development Partners.

The city would receive three parcels fronting Wright Street and the developer would receive the city’s 0.23 acres fronting North College Street. Both the city’s and developers’ properties have been independently appraised to establish fair market value, and the developer/landowners would be required to pay the city $80,000. That land swap would allow the city to expand the size of its planned municipal parking deck, bringing the total spaces to 586. The city would “develop, own, operate and maintain” the parking deck, according to documents.

The MOU outlines a 40-year parking agreement between the hotel owner and the city that would provide exclusive, gated access to the top two levels of the deck, consisting of 167 parking spaces. The hotel would be responsible for paying the city $100 a month per space, with that rate fixed for the first 10 years of the term.

The land owners involved with the development also plan to purchase 0.15 acres of the Regions Bank property near Wright Street and obtain easement rights across other Regions property, which would allow ingress and egress for the parking deck. The city would also grant Regions the use of 15 spaces at no charge in the deck on ground level, which would be gated and not accessible by the general public. The Baptist Student Union, which will also be located on the ground floor, would also get 15 spaces.

For the complete article please see

Birmingham’s Avondale grows up while holding to gritty past
From the article by Erin Edgemon on

Birmingham’s trendy Avondale neighborhood is booming and growing up in the process while holding to its gritty working-class past.

Home prices in south Avondale near the renovated city park and the 41st Street commercial corridor have nearly doubled in five years. Families are flocking to the neighborhood for its walkable streets, restaurants and short commute to downtown Birmingham.

“We knew it was up and coming when we moved in,” said attorney Stephen Parsley. He and his wife, Margaret, bought a three-bed, two-bath Tudor-style home in south Avondale three years ago. They have an 18-month-old child. “We didn’t know how much it would boom. We would have been more eager to move in if we knew how much it would grow.”

In three short years, the number of restaurants in the commercial corridor has doubled, he said.

That’s only the beginning, developers say.

“Avondale is transitioning between a hip, nightlife spot into a more self-sustaining community,” said Payne Baker, owner of Cahaba Realty and Management, who redeveloped the Avondale Mills Shopping Center on Fourth Avenue South, which is home to Tropicaleo Puerto Rican restaurant and Mountain High Outfitters.

The neighborhood is unique because it has all of the components to be self-sustaining: residential, retail, nightlife, office, warehouse and industrial, he said.

Even more retail shops are moving into the neighborhood with the addition of the glass front 400 41st Street building in the commercial corridor of Avondale. Other retail is in the works.

And, as sale prices for single-family homes continue to soar, developers are looking to bring more townhouses and apartments to the growing area.

The East and North Avondale neighborhoods have been slower to revive, but it’s happening now.

Ram Tool moved its headquarters and 125 employees to the Hill Building at the Continental Gin. Triton Stone, Cahaba Brewing, and Labcorp are also located there. The University of Alabama at Birmingham has moved some operations and about 700 employees to North Avondale. Another expansion there may be in the works.

Residential, office and retail development are also coming to the First Avenue North corridor.

Plans are also in the works to connect Avondale with downtown Birmingham through an expansion of the Jones Valley Trail – a paved walking lane parallel to First Avenue South.

Company town to dining destination
Avondale was formed as a company town around Avondale Mills just east of Birmingham in 1887. It was incorporated into the city in 1910. Eventually, the city divided the town into three neighborhoods: South Avondale (and Forest Park), East Avondale and North Avondale.

Just a decade ago much of the neighborhood’s now popular commercial corridor along 41st Street was blighted and abandoned. Many residents, not to mention tourists, avoided the area due to its reputation for crime, drug use and prostitution.

What changed?

In 2010, developer Coby Lake and brewmaster Craig Shaw announced plans to open Birmingham’s second brewery, Avondale’s first, in a century-old, long-vacant building on 41st Street.

According to their research, the building, which still houses Avondale Brewing Co. (now owned by Good People Brewing) dates to 1885 and has been a bank, a fire station and a saloon in the 1980s.

The city of Birmingham overhauled historic Avondale Park, reopening in early 2011, with new landscaping, walkways, playground areas for children and easier access to the pavilions.

Parkside Café, 41st Street Pub & Aircraft Sales and Saw’s Soul Kitchen followed.

In its April 2013 issue, Southern Living magazine called Avondale “one of Birmingham’s hippest places to live and visit.”

Paget Pizitz and Harriet Reis opened Melt about a year later. Saturn concert venue and Satellite coffee shop opened in 2015.

Family friendly but still edgy
Avondale’s growth over the last five years has been exponential, Pizitz said. “I think it has become a little city inside of itself,” she said.

The restauranteur, who has invested blood, sweat and tears in Avondale over the last several years, said she wouldn’t have lived in Avondale seven or eight years ago due to the visible crime, trash on the streets and dilapidated structures.

She lived in Mountain Brook’s English Village when she and Reis took a “big leap of faith” and opened Melt in Avondale four years ago.

“At that time, it was just us. There wasn’t anything around us,” Pizitz said.

She just knew, though, that Avondale would take off. “The sense of pride has always been really phenomenal,” she said.

Pizitz went on to open Fancy’s on Fifth with Reis in 2016. She moved to Avondale and also opened the Marble Ring, Zelda’s Lounge and Hot Diggity Dogs.

Now, Pizitz said there’s more police presence, more street lighting, more businesses and more people, which is curtailing crime in Avondale.

“It’s just a very cool, eclectic neighborhood,” she said. “Walking down Avondale you forget where you are in a good way.”

When Charley Duggan started buying, fixing up and renting out 100-year-old homes in the neighborhood more than 20 years ago, south Avondale was a ghost town, he said.

Now, he’s building an upscale 10-home development along one of the neighborhood’s major thoroughfares Fifth Avenue South. Homes prices there start at $339,000.

Bruce Lanier, an architect and founder of MakeBHM, said Avondale was sketchy when he opened his former architecture firm on Third Avenue around 2009.

“We got broken into three times right after we moved in and all our computers stolen,” he said. “A year later, I was sitting there with my door open at 11 p.m. and listening to music coming from the brewery.”

Lanier marvels at how fast the transformation occurred.

“It is always going to have grit,” he said. “It was a mill town back in the day. Those things have echoes that carry on over time.”

More is on the way for Avondale.

Construction is expected to start in late 2019 on a redesigned and more pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly 41st Street between First and Fifth Avenue South, according to the city of Birmingham.

The redesigned “complete street” will include bike lanes, landscaping and lighting, said Michael Eddington, chief civil engineer for the city. Sidewalks will also be widened to make room for gathering and outdoor dining space. Improved street parking and storm water management and flood mitigation are also part of the plan.

Eddington said the project is currently in the design phase.

Jones Valley Trail
Building momentum for the expansion of the Jones Valley Trail from 32nd Street South in Lakeview to 41st Street in Avondale has been a priority for the Freshwater Land Trust throughout 2018, said Mary Beth Brown, communications director for the group.

The Rotary Trail runs from 20th Street South to 24th Street and the Jones Valley Trail continues the route to 32nd Street.

“We probably get the most requests for that trail extension,” she said. “It is a popular one.”

Freshwater Land Trust is working with the city of Birmingham on accessing rights of way and potential routes for the trail extension, Brown said. They are also working with property owners on First Avenue South.

“We are making progress in terms of where the ideal trail route will be, and it’s a matter of landowner engagement and securing the funding for building a trail,” she said.

Big business
UAB moved about 700 administrative employees to the former AmSouth operations center in North Avondale in 2016.

It was an effort to free up space for outpatient clinics on the UAB Medicine campus in Southside Birmingham, according to the university.

More UAB employees could also be moving to North Avondale in the near future. The UAB Health System purchased additional property in the neighborhood for a potential logistics center.

“UAB’s investment in North Avondale is helping to rebuild the employment base in an area that has historically been important for job growth in the city,” said David Fleming, REV Birmingham CEO and President. “UAB’s move brings in more people and proves the need for continued infrastructure improvements and business growth in the historic neighborhood district.”

For the complete article please see

Alabama’s Wickles Pickles are more than just a jar of pickles, here’s why
From the article by Jared Boyd on

Wickles Pickles are a familiar brand in supermarkets across the U.S. for their delicious, tangy flavor.

But did you know that their story has Alabama roots?

The pickles started as a small venture between Will Ferniany and his wife, Dana, who were making the pickles as a tasty gift for their friends in Philadelphia. The pickles, popular among the couple’s friends, were made based on a 90-year-old family recipe, which had been handed down to Dana. The fanfare around the pickles sparked the entrepreneurial minds of Dana’s cousins Trey and Will Sims.

In the late 1990s, the two brothers joined with their friend Andy Anderson to start Sims Foods, Inc., to mass-produce the pickles. The Sims brothers maintained the family recipe for production. The recipe calls for the pickles to be blended with a secret mixture of spices and other ingredients.

The small company started making an average of 27 hand-packed jars of the pickles a day at a small house in Dadeville, Alabama.

In 2000, the Sims company decided to donate their homemade pickles to be placed in the gift baskets of a fundraiser organized by Birmingham-based grocery chain Bruno’s. The gutsy marketing move worked out in their favor, as Bruno’s soon became the first supermarket chain to begin carrying the pickles.

Eventually restaurants in Dadeville and nearby Lake Martin began using the locally-sourced pickles in their recipes, and their profile in Alabama grocery stores began to increase.

As the company grew, they temporarily relocated from Dadeville to Opelika, following damage from a 2011 tornado.

Today, more than 2,000,000 jars of Wickles Pickles are consumed nationwide. The brand is available in grocery stores across the country.

The company’s impact has made their pickles a household name for many, including influencers such as television’s Rachael Ray, who named them her favorite pickle in an issue of Every Day Rachael Ray Magazine.

Wickles also has grown as a brand outside of its traditional pickle, with 10 items in its product line, including Dirty Dills.

So, now when you see a jar of Wickles on a store shelf, you can rave about the taste as well as the 90-year journey the recipe took to make it to your table.

For the complete article please see

“Partner Pointer” for the tourism industry website
Events vs. Locations: When creating an event, make sure to select the “Events” tab in the far, upper right corner of the Partner site rather than “Location.” The “Location” tab is to be used when creating a new page for your business.

Not a partner yet? Sign up today.


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 newsletter please contact Dwayne O’Riley at:

Alabama Tourism Department