2 years ago

Alabama Power, volunteers partner to save Logan Martin’s School Bus Island

Logan Martin Lake and its waters have held a bit of magic for David “Bama” Smith since his teenage years.

Smith spent his summers off from Woodlawn High School skiing and swimming with friends. Part of “the golden years before life responsibilities set in,” he never forgot the epic sunsets across Logan Martin Lake.

Smith and his buddies often visited a little spot – a green island covered with trees that sprouted from the lake – marked as Grissom Island on maps, but nicknamed School Bus Island by longtime residents. When the lake filled, the protruding land held an abandoned school bus. Though floods carried away the school bus years later, the name remained.

Locals say the area around School Bus Island is great for fishing. Some have stories about losing a bass “with a mouth as big as a hubcap” that could have easily topped 16 pounds.

The history between Smith and the small plot of land is more personal than any fish tale. Many evenings, he and his friends would boat to the grassy island after long hours in the sun. Happily exhausted after skiing, they’d have a sandwich and enjoy conversation around an evening campfire.

“I enjoyed being out with my friends on this little island,” he said.

Fast-forward some 30 years. Logan Martin Lake was always tucked into the back of Smith’s mind as a future home site. When he and his wife, Reneé, decided to build their “forever home,” they happened on a fortuitous find: Property about 5 miles from Logan Martin Dam was for sale. They went to see the land in April 2001, and three days later they owned it.

From the two-story home his wife designed, the couple has a bird’s-eye view of School Bus Island, 350 yards away. But Smith noticed worrisome changes during his 14 years on the lake.

“Almost in slow motion,” Smith saw his beloved getaway slip deeper and deeper into the waters. Estimating the island’s current dimensions at about 150 feet long, 50 feet wide, Smith said the island used to be about four times larger. Erosion was taking a heavy toll.

Saving a treasure

A phone call from Smith in June to Alabama Power’s Rob Coyne changed the future of School Bus Island.

Coyne, team leader at the Ragland Shoreline Office for Logan Martin and Neely Henry lakes, agreed with Smith that residents and lake visitors have enjoyed using School Bus Island for recreation for many years.

“Our Shoreline Management Team works to protect and enhance the environmental, scenic, cultural and recreation values of Alabama Power lakes,” Coyne said. “We understand the historical and recreational importance of the island to the Logan Martin Lake community.”

Coyne and other Shoreline Management team members worked with Fred Casey, owner of Tradesman Co. in Pell City, to stabilize the banks of the island. Casey’s company works on lake properties throughout the state, constructing seawalls, boathouses, piers, docks and other lake structures. For Casey, who has lived on the Pell City side of Logan Martin Lake for 14 years, the campaign to restore the island was personal.

“I wanted to see the work done right,” he said. “It’s just a pleasure to do this work. It’s almost like not working because I enjoy it so much.”

Coyne asked that the work be completed by July 4, if possible, to allow lake residents to enjoy using the island for the holiday.

Tradesman Co. placed a mini-excavator on the island. Smith’s next-door neighbor William Mann was also excited to see the project move forward. Casey and Tradesman Co. stored riprap on Mann’s land before they installed the materials around the island.

Casey and his team installed about 225 tons of riprap – stones about 6 inches to 10 inches long – to shore up the banks of the island. Workers created a beach area, leaving a small inlet to allow boats to anchor offshore. They completed the work, which began in mid-June, by June 27.

Smith, who owns Star Aerial and pilots drones commercially, documented the construction.

“This project was very timely,” said Casey, a member of the Logan Martin Lake Protection Association.

He is chairman of the board for the Logan Martin LakeFest and Boat Show, Alabama’s largest in-water boat show, held annually at Lakeside Park in Pell City. “I’m so glad that Dave Smith took interest in restoring the island – he’s been an advocate for a healthy lake for many, many years. The riprap restricts additional degradation of the island from erosion. We put in long hours to make the deadline as promised.

“I’m very happy with it because it’s encouraged people to look at the rest of the islands on Logan Martin Lake,” Casey added.

A happy ending for all

Smith said that he couldn’t be happier with the end results. He is thrilled the island has been preserved for the enjoyment of lakegoers for years to come.

“It was wonderful to see the work done so quickly,” Smith said.

With the renovations completed, lake residents responded with a July 4 celebration. Homeowners set up a treasure chest for children who visited. Kids reacted as though they’d discovered a pirate’s booty when opening the chest filled with Mardi Gras beads and other trinkets. The island remains the perfect place for boaters to stop for a picnic or to relax under the trees after a day of sun and fun.

Smith was eager to share School Bus Island with his 6-year-old grandson, Calvin, who frequently visits with his parents.

“I want Calvin to be able to enjoy the island for years to come,” Smith said.

The Smiths – including their son, Cameron, daughter-in-law, Jodi, and Calvin – have visited School Bus Island a few times since the shores were upgraded.

For Smith a half a lifetime later, the island still has a tranquil charm.

“I like to say that ‘a stitch in time saves nine,’” he said. “Alabama Power prevented this island from dissolving, and it’s made a lot of people happy. Alabama Power cares about our lake. This has put a smile on a lot of people’s faces by saving a little landmark.”

This story originally appeared in Alabama Power’s Shorelines.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

13 mins ago

Pandemic forces changes for Alabama Coastal Cleanup

Alabama’s largest one-day volunteer event will be spread out over an entire week this year thanks to the pandemic.

The 33rd annual Alabama Coastal Cleanup will begin Saturday, Sept. 19 and continue through Sunday, Sept. 27. Angela Underwood with the State Lands Division’s Coastal Section of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) said spreading the event out over eight days gives volunteers and staff the space and time they need to stay safe from COVID-19.

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“The biggest adjustment is giving people more time to get out and participate in the cleanup so everybody is not necessarily crowded in one space at one time,” Underwood said. “On the 19th, we are asking groups to send one representative from their group to pick up supplies and wear face coverings while picking up those supplies, then practice safe social distancing while cleaning up, especially if they are around people not from their household.”

2020 Alabama Coastal Cleanup will have a few changes from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

The Alabama Coastal Cleanup is part of the International Coastal Cleanup, an annual effort to remove marine debris from coastal waters around the world. In 2019, approximately 5,000 volunteers removed more than 30,000 pounds of trash from Alabama’s coastline and waterways.

“I want to keep seeing people get involved every year and understand the problems we have with marine debris,” Underwood said. “I would love to see some of our volunteers get more involved in the educational aspect of teaching people why marine debris is so detrimental to our natural resources and our economy.”

This year, ADCNR has partnered with Alabama People Against a Littered State (ALPALS) to organize the event. Spencer Ryan, executive director of ALPALS, is looking forward to the event despite changes brought by the pandemic.

“We’re excited about it,” Ryan said. “It’s going to be different. It’s going to be a challenge, but we met early enough to where a lot of good plans were put into effect.”

Ryan said volunteers are needed on land and on the water at cleanup sites in Mobile and Baldwin counties. Participants will receive a T-shirt and basic cleanup supplies. Event organizers will provide masks for up to 5,000 volunteers.

“I’m looking for a huge turnout,” Ryan said. “I think people have been shut up enough. I think they’re ready to do something positive. I think the coastal cleanup each year brings that out in people.”

Organizers are recommending participants use the Ocean Conservancy’s Clean Swell mobile app to tally their debris data. Underwood said this will allow them to receive data faster than in years past.

“We normally hand out close to 5,000 paper data cards each year so that people can take data on the things they are cleaning,” Underwood said. “We don’t want volunteers to handle data cards, and we don’t want to handle them as they come back in. It just seemed like the right thing to do. We still get the data and it’s better on our resources.”

The 2020 Alabama Coastal Cleanup is sponsored by Poarch Band of Creek IndiansAlabama People Against A Littered State (ALPALS)Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR)National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)Ike’s Beach ServiceBebo’sCoastal Conservation Association of Alabama (CCAA)Alabama PowerLulu’sCity of Gulf ShoresGulf Shores Utility BoardCity of Orange BeachRiveria UtilitiesBaldwin EMCFlora-BamaEvonikCompass MediaCoast 360Baldwin County Sewer ServiceAlabama Department of TransportationALFACoca-ColaVulcan MaterialsHonda Manufacturing of AlabamaAlabama Farmers CooperativeAssociation of County Commissions of AlabamaThe Ocean ConservancyGulf Shores/Orange Beach TourismOsprey InitiativeThompson EngineeringWeeks Bay FoundationWeeks Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve and Paddle the Gulf.

“We’re the only state that does it with corporate sponsorship money,” Ryan said. “I think that’s the reason why we continue to be one of the most successful coastal cleanups in the country. Our corporate sponsors make that possible.”

For more information about the coastal zones, zone captains, start times and safety tips, visit AlabamaCoastalCleanup.com or call 251-928-9792. You can also follow the Alabama Coastal Cleanup on Facebook at www.facebook.com/AlabamaCoastalCleanup.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

43 mins ago

Nick Saban: Alabama football players need to buy into culture of winning

Alabama coach Nick Saban said the offense performed well at Saturday’s scrimmage while the defense identified areas that need improving.

Saban said it’s time for all players to buy into the culture of success Alabama football has established.

“It’s very important that our players sort of buy into the culture of what has helped us be successful here for a long, long time,” Saban said. “And that’s the intangibles that we play with, the work ethic that we have, the discipline that we play with, the toughness, the effort … and people having a great sense of urgency about how important it is to do their job so that their unit, their team – our team – has a chance to be successful. That means we have to play to a standard – and it’s not really anybody else’s standard, it’s our standard.”

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Hear what else Saban had to say below. The Crimson Tide begins preparing today for its opening game against Missouri on Sept. 26.

Nick Saban on Alabama’s latest scrimmage, culture of winning from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

1 hour ago

Gus Malzahn: Auburn football depth a positive of the COVID-19 positives

Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said it’s concerning that players on his football team continue to test positive for COVID-19 less than two weeks before the SEC season kicks off, but there is a silver lining.

“When you’ve got guys out, specifically starters out, it gives other guys opportunities,” he said. “So, on the positive end of it, our other guys have gotten more reps than they’ve ever got.”

Malzahn said practices will now focus on Kentucky. Auburn hosts the Wildcats to kick off the season at 11 a.m. Sept. 26 at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

RELATED: What impact will Chad Morris have on the Auburn offense in 2020?

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2 hours ago

Doug Jones, Tommy Tuberville react to passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

United States Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away on Friday evening at age 87 following a battle with metastatic pancreas cancer.

A release from the Supreme Court outlined that the liberal icon died while surrounded by family at her home in Washington, D.C. She is survived by her two children, Jane Carol Ginsburg (George Spera) and James Steven Ginsburg (Patrice Michaels); four grandchildren, Paul Spera (Francesca Toich), Clara Spera (Rory Boyd), Miranda Ginsburg and Abigail Ginsburg; two step-grandchildren, Harjinder Bedi and Satinder Bedi; and one great-grandchild: Lucrezia Spera.

Ginsburg was appointed to the Supreme Court by President Bill Clinton in 1993. She was the second woman appointed to the Court and served more than 27 years.

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Born in Brooklyn, New York, she received her B.A. from Cornell University, attended Harvard Law School and received her LL.B. from Columbia Law School. She served as a law clerk to the Honorable Edmund L. Palmieri, Judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, from 1959–1961. From 1961–1963, she was a research associate and then associate director of the Columbia Law School Project on International Procedure. She was a Professor of Law at Rutgers University School of Law from 1963–1972, then Columbia Law School from 1972–1980 and a fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences in Stanford, California from 1977–1978. In 1971, she was instrumental in launching the Women’s Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union. Ginsburg served as the ACLU’s General Counsel from 1973–1980 and on the National Board of Directors from 1974–1980. She was appointed a Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in 1980 by President Jimmy Carter

A private interment service will reportedly be held at Arlington National Cemetery.

The news of her passing rocked the nation on Friday night; reactions poured in from across the country, including from the two Alabamians running for the U.S. Senate in November’s general election.

U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) released a statement, which read as follows:

This news is a devastating loss for our country and for all those who have been inspired by the inimitable Justice Ginsburg during her long and historic career. Justice Ginsburg led a life guided by principle and filled with purpose. A true trailblazer in the legal field in her own right, she inspired generations of young women to reach for heights that previously felt impossible. Through her quiet dignity, her willingness to bridge political divides, and her steady pursuit of justice, she was a standard-bearer for positive leadership.

Her bold dissents in the Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. and Shelby County v. Holder cases are particularly meaningful to me, and to so many in Alabama and across the country. She stood for what was right and for the constitutional principles of equality and democracy that she held dear, even if it meant she was in the minority on the Court. As only the second woman to ever serve on the Court, she made full use of her opportunity to serve as a voice for women on the bench.

Beyond her legal acumen, Justice Ginsburg will also be remembered for her sharp wit, her tireless advocacy for voting rights, and her historic role in fighting for a more equal society for women across the country. She will be greatly missed.

Louise and I extend our sincerest condolences to Justice Ginsburg’s loved ones. We’re praying for them as they grieve this tremendous loss.

Republican U.S. senatorial nominee Tommy Tuberville reacted in social media posts.

“Justice Ginsburg should be honored for her service to our nation as a trailblazing attorney and as a jurist,” Tuberville said. “She fought hard for her beliefs and carried the respect of her fellow justices, liberal and conservative alike. I am certain that at this moment, Justice Antonin Scalia is greeting his old friend at the Pearly Gates.”

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

3 hours ago

New deer zones, Hunting 101 and transfer of possession requirement

Deer hunters will find two new zones in the 2020-2021 Alabama Deer Zones map with season dates that better coincide with deer rutting activity in those areas.

Chuck Sykes, Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) Director, said studies have confirmed that deer in Zone D in northwest Alabama and Zone E in southeast Alabama rut significantly earlier than deer in most of the state.

“We have been conducting annual herd health checks for the past 15 years. Part of the data gathered was the reproductive status of the animal. That data is what helped us move the season into February. We also determined we had deer that rutted early.” Sykes said. “We already knew this from historical stocking data, but it took us a little more time to determine some clear-cut boundaries that would take in those areas. It was pretty easy to set up Zone A and Zone B. We basically just divided the state. But D and E are isolated pockets with early rutting deer, so it took a little more time to get those boundaries defined. Once we got the boundaries defined, it was a logical step to make those new zones.”

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Sykes said in the majority of the state the deer rut considerably later, and it was reasonable to move the season dates to close on February 10. The seasons in Zone D and Zone E start early and end early.

“Because of the early rut in Zone E, some of those deer were already casting (shedding) their antlers,” he said. “So, people who were trying to fill their freezers later in the year ended up shooting 2- and 3-year-old bucks that had cast their antlers, thinking they were just shooting a big, old doe. The season comes in early to cover the rut, but it also goes out early to try to protect those bucks that had already shed.”

Newcomers to hunting or those with little experience can take advantage of the WFF’s Adult Mentored Hunts (AMH), which Sykes said has been tweaked for the 2020-2021 season. Last year, a requirement to take a one-day workshop to be eligible for an AMH event was implemented. This year, potential participants can take a Hunting 101 or Introduction to Deer or Turkey to meet the requirement.

“What we found was we had too many people backing out at the last minute,” he said. “Now, with the introductory courses or Hunting 101, people have to have a little skin in the game. Once you complete the one-day workshop, you will be eligible for one of the three-day, full-blown Adult Mentored Hunts. Last year, our participation rates went through the roof on our three-day hunts. The people who were eligible had already been to the one-day workshop, and they had figured out if they wanted to participate. Our staff puts in a lot of work and effort to make these hunts happen, and to have somebody cancel at the last minute was taxing on us. Plus, I’m sure there would have been a lot of people willing to take that slot on one of the best hunting areas in the state.”

WFF’s Justin Grider, who has been in charge of the AMH events since their inception four years ago, said the new format has achieved positive results in terms of hunter recruitment.

“We’re finding that people who are self-motivated are signing up for the Hunting 101 workshop,” Grider said. “If they are willing to give up a Saturday and learn about hunting and firearms safety at one of our public shooting ranges, we’re finding they are more likely to continue hunting as a result. Whereas, our previous format was come one, come all. Whoever wanted to apply could, and the participants were randomly selected from that pool. But we ended up with attrition rates above 50 percent. We had people who accepted a spot and then backed out. That was very frustrating and a waste of state resources.”

Grider said the new workshops not only confirmed participants’ commitments, they also reached a broader audience.

“With the AMH events, we could only accommodate a few people at a time,” he said. “With the one-day workshops, we can accommodate as many people as want to come. Last year, we had about 40 people at the workshop outside of Birmingham.”

Grider said new this year is an option to attend a species-specific workshop that focuses on deer or turkey.

“When we polled our participants in hunter education, 90 percent said they wanted to hunt either deer or turkey,” he said. “We created those Learn-to-Hunt workshops to satisfy that demand. With that, we cast a really big net to reach a lot of folks.”

The Hunting 101 workshop covers the basics on hunting safety and is geared to small game, like rabbit hunting, squirrel hunting and dove hunting.

“If you come to one of these Learn-to-Hunt workshops, we will obviously focus on the safety components of firearms and treestand safety, and then we will really drill down on the hunting of a specific species. If it’s turkey, we will go into the different turkey calls, the gear we use, patterning shotguns, how to find birds, setting up for a hunt, everything you need to know to hunt turkeys.

“With Hunting 101, you’ll have a chance to shoot a .22 and a shotgun. You’ll learn about what is good squirrel habitat or where you can find some rabbits. Then later in the day, you will have the opportunity to do a little small-game hunting or become familiar with the habitat.”

Either workshop meets the requirement to apply for the three-day AMH events. Grider also said people can come to as many of the workshops as they want.

“These are great opportunities to meet additional staff members, additional mentors and new hunters,” Grider said. “That’s the other component of the one-day workshops – it’s a great opportunity to socialize with other hunters, mentors and staff. And it’s not based on previous hunting experience. If you’ve been an avid deer hunter for 20 years and are interested in turkey hunting, come to that turkey workshop. It’s a great networking tool.”

Anyone interested in one of the workshops or an AMH event can visit www.outdooralabama.com/hunting/adult-mentored-hunting-program and use the interactive map to find a Hunting 101 or Learn-to-Hunt event.

Although there has been little mention of chronic wasting disease (CWD) during the COVID-19 outbreak, Sykes said WFF still needs the assistance of hunters to properly monitor the state’s deer herd.

“We still need people to help us collect samples,” he said. “Just because COVID hit, CWD didn’t miraculously go away. We’re still collecting samples. We’re still doing all of our surveillance. And we need people to participate. We installed those self-check freezers around the state for people to drop off samples. The response from the public was less than desirable. Just because we’re not talking about it every day like we have been for the past couple of years, CWD didn’t go anywhere. There’s still the threat. The numbers in Mississippi and Tennessee are still growing. We have to be diligent in doing our part so if it does hit, we can react swiftly.”

Locations of the self-service freezers are available at https://www.outdooralabama.com/cwd-sampling.

Sykes also wants to remind deer and turkey hunters about the changes to the possession regulation for the upcoming seasons.

Hunters who harvest deer and turkeys must maintain proper paperwork when transferring possession of that animal to a processor, taxidermist or any other individual.

According to WFF’s Law Enforcement Section, the recording and reporting requirements remain the same in Game Check. The update concerns possession of the game by someone other than the hunter.

Whoever is in possession of all or part of a deer or turkey that is not their own must retain written documentation with the name of the hunter, the hunter’s Conservation ID number, the date of the harvest and Game Check confirmation number. The information can be documented on a piece of paper, or a transfer of possession certificate is available in the Alabama Hunting & Fishing Digest or online at outdooralabama.com.

The documentation must be kept as long as that person is in possession of that deer or turkey. The hunter who harvests the deer or turkey is required to enter that animal into the Game Check system and maintain in his or her possession a valid confirmation number for that animal.

Hunters still have 48 hours to report the harvest through Game Check to attain a confirmation number. However, the game cannot be transferred to another individual until a valid Game Check confirmation number has been acquired.

The easiest way to comply with the requirements is to download the Outdoor AL smartphone app. The other is to go to outdooralabama.com and click on “Game Check.” For those who don’t have internet access, WFF has self-service kiosks at all district offices. The 1-800 number is no longer in effect. Visit www.outdooralabama.com/transfer-possession for more information.

David Rainer is an award-winning writer who has covered Alabama’s great outdoors for 25 years. The former outdoors editor at the Mobile Press-Register, he writes for Outdoor Alabama, the website of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.