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Alabama cities taking to the water with new shoreline public parks

More Alabama cities are discovering, or rediscovering, the allure and economic development potential of their waterfronts.

In the coming months, at least two Alabama cities located along Alabama Power reservoirs expect to open new waterfront parks – not only to support community recreation but to draw new visitors, residents, businesses and revenue.

In Lincoln, in Talladega County, construction is well underway on a 38-acre fishing park off Travis Drive on the shore of Lake Logan Martin. The $6 million project is designed for major fishing tournaments, with a boat launch that can handle multiple vessels at a time, plus parking to accommodate up to 300 trucks with boat trailers.

A fish weigh-in station, multiple pavilions and boat piers round out the amenities that are critical for major fishing tourneys. Playgrounds, restrooms, walking paths and shoreline access for people who want to play in the water round out the park’s features.

“We are absolutely enthralled with what we are creating,” said Lincoln Mayor Lew Watson. He said the city consulted closely with fishing organizations, such as the Alabama Bass Trail and Bassmaster, in designing the park. “I’m a fisherman and I love to fish but I’m not an expert on fishing tournaments,” Watson said. “They have been totally involved with us, and the park is the result of their input.”

New fishing park coming to Lincoln from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

He said the city is already in the process of scheduling fishing tournaments for after the park’s anticipated opening in March 2021. “Everybody can’t wait,” Watson said.

Meanwhile, on Neely Henry Lake, construction continues on a long-planned waterfront park in the city of Southside, on State Highway 77 at Fowler’s Ferry Road.

Southside Mayor Wally Burns said the project, on about a 9-acre site, will be the city’s first waterfront park. About two-thirds of the city limits runs along Neely Henry Lake, on the Coosa River.

“This is going to be a huge asset for our people, and anyone else who wants to use it,” Burns said.

So far, a parking area has been carved out and two 20-foot-wide boat ramps are complete. Work is nearly finished on a bait store with public restrooms. The bait shack will also sell snacks. Next up is construction of a boardwalk along the shore, as well as a pier where people can fish. Burns said the first phase of the park should be open early next year, at the latest.

Additional phases may include a refueling facility for boats, a walking track, a pavilion with picnic tables and a restaurant. Burns said the site will be able to accommodate fishing tournaments. The project is designed to be both a recreational attraction and an economic development asset for the city.

Keith Strickland, with Birmingham architecture and construction firm Goodwin Mills Cawood, is overseeing the project in Lincoln. He said the park, on the site of a defunct sod farm, takes advantage of the sweeping shoreline, just minutes from Interstate 20. “From a design standpoint, it is meant to be sustainable,” Strickland said, with high-quality construction, underground utilities and aesthetically pleasing architecture. Like the project in Southside, it will be Lincoln’s first waterfront park.

Strickland said city leaders wanted a facility that not only provides recreational opportunities for residents and visitors but also has the potential to drive growth and boost tax revenues.

Watson hopes the park will be an attraction and catalyst for commercial projects, such as hotels and restaurants. He said the I-20 exit nearest the park and Honda Drive – which leads from the interstate toward the park site as well as to the Honda automotive plant that is the city’s most well-known employer – are ripe for development.

“That’s one of the things we hope to accomplish with this. It’s absolutely an opportunity,” Watson said.

He said it’s thrilling that all Lincoln residents will soon have access to the water and the many recreational options that Logan Martin Lake and the Coosa River provide. “We are on the lake; we ought to be doing that. The time was right to move forward.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)