The Wire

  • New tunnel, premium RV section at Talladega Superspeedway on schedule despite weather


    Construction of a new oversized vehicle tunnel and premium RV infield parking section at Talladega Superspeedway is still on schedule to be completed in time for the April NASCAR race, despite large amounts of rainfall and unusual groundwater conditions underneath the track.

    Track Chairman Grant Lynch, during a news conference Wednesday at the track, said he’s amazed the general contractor, Taylor Corporation of Oxford, has been able to keep the project on schedule.

    “The amount of water they have pumped out of that and the extra engineering they did from the original design, basically to keep that tunnel from floating up out of the earth, was remarkable,” Lynch said.

  • Alabama workers built 1.6M engines in 2018 to add auto horsepower


    Alabama’s auto workers built nearly 1.6 million engines last year, as the state industry continues to carve out a place in global markets with innovative, high-performance parts, systems and finished vehicles.

    Last year also saw major new developments in engine manufacturing among the state’s key players, and more advanced infrastructure is on the way in the coming year.

    Hyundai expects to complete a key addition to its engine operations in Montgomery during the first half of 2019, while Honda continues to reap the benefits of a cutting-edge Alabama engine line installed several years ago.

  • Groundbreaking on Alabama’s newest aerospace plant made possible through key partnerships


    Political and business leaders gathered for a groundbreaking at Alabama’s newest aerospace plant gave credit to the formation of the many key partnerships that made it possible.

    Governor Kay Ivey and several other federal, state and local officials attended the event which celebrated the construction of rocket engine builder Blue Origin’s facility in Huntsville.

9 months ago

McFarland Memorial Trail opens at Lake Lurleen State Park

(Alabama State Parks Foundation/Contributed)

Lake Lurleen State Park in Coker officially opened its newest trail on Thursday, named the J.W. “Bill” McFarland Sr. Memorial Trail to honor the late Tuscaloosa businessman, public servant and philanthropist.

McFarland’s family donated funds to the Alabama State Parks Foundation for the construction of the half-mile trail, which connects to the 9-mile Tashka Trail, the park’s longest. The park now has eight trails open for hiking and biking, totaling just over 27 miles.


“The Alabama State Parks Division is honored that Mr. McFarland’s family wanted to support Lake Lurleen State Park and the Alabama State Parks Foundation with this gift,” said Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Commissioner Chris Blankenship. “‘Partners Pay the Way’ is more than a slogan for our parks. We are thrilled that this family saw Lake Lurleen State Park as a fitting place to honor their father, husband and brother.”

McFarland’s brother and longtime business partner, Ward, represented his family at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the trail. “My brother loved Lake Lurleen State Park and we are happy that his name will forever be attached to this trail where so many visitors will be able to enjoy the outdoors,” he said.

Billy McFarland Jr. said, “We are glad the Alabama State Parks Foundation is now working with the State Parks Division to help improve all of our parks. We certainly encourage others who have made special memories with their families in the parks to consider becoming a supporter through the Foundation.”

J.W. “Bill” McFarland Sr. was born in Tuscaloosa, where he attended school and graduated with honors from the University of Alabama in commerce and business administration. In 1973, he assumed the position of vice president of Ward McFarland Inc., a real estate development and investment firm founded by his father, the Hon. Ward Wharton McFarland. In 1986, he was the Republican nominee for the United States House of Representatives from District 7.

In 1987, Gov. Guy Hunt named him to his cabinet as Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Mental Health. During his two years of service, McFarland successfully lobbied for the passage of a $100 million bond issue – the largest mental health bond issue ever in the state – that enabled countless mental health facilities across the state to renovate and improve their level of care.

He was a founding member of the Southern High-Speed Rail Commission, appointed by six Alabama governors, both Republican and Democrat, to the then three-state body. McFarland was instrumental in inaugurating the Gulf Coast Limited Amtrak Service that served Alabama and for working to maintain rail service in Tuscaloosa.

McFarland was an officer in the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary, was president of Volunteers of America of Alabama and served on the Shelton State Foundation, Friends of Bryce Hospital and numerous other civic and community organizations.

Design and construction of the trail was done by members of the West Alabama Mountain Bike Association, Alabama State Parks North Region Trails Coordinator, Northwest District Superintendent Chad Davis and the staff of Lake Lurleen State Park. WAMBA has built and maintains all the trails in the park.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

1 year ago

Alabama State Parks enjoy record year for earning TripAdvisor Awards

Alabama State Parks/Contributed)

Alabama State Parks reaped a record 18 Certificate of Excellence Awards for 2019. The honors go to only about 10 percent of the attractions listed on the travel website.

Also, a record 10 Alabama State Parks – or amenities within the parks, such as the Gulf State Park Pier – earned TripAdvisor Hall of Fame honors. In 2018, 16 Alabama State Parks received Certificates of Excellence and nine Hall of Fame awards.


“We are very proud of all of our parks that received this recognition, especially because it is based on visitors’ impressions,” said Greg Lein, director of the Alabama State Parks Division of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. “It’s exciting that our parks received three first-time Certificates of Excellence and that Cheaha State Park was inducted into their Hall of Fame after earning a certificate for the fifth straight year.

“It is impressive that we have been able to maintain these positive impressions with guests even during periods of renovation and repairs to many parks’ amenities. It’s truly a positive reflection on the attitude and performance of these parks’ staff and leadership.”

To qualify for a Certificate of Excellence, an accommodation, restaurant or tourism experience must maintain an overall TripAdvisor rating of at least four out of five, have a set minimum number of reviews and have been listed on TripAdvisor for at least 12 months. There is no application process to receive TripAdvisor recognition. Certificate of Excellence winners for five straight years earn Hall of Fame recognition.

The Alabama State Parks (and parks’ attractions) honored with Certificates of Excellence this year:

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

2 years ago

7 Alabama state parks earn total of 9 TripAdvisor Hall of Fame honors

(State Parks photo/Billy Pope)

Seven Alabama State Parks earned nine Hall of Fame honors from TripAdvisor and 12 parks in the 22-park system earned Certificates of Excellence from the world’s largest travel website. Overall, the parks received 16 Certificates of Excellence for 2018.

To earn Hall of Fame recognition, a park, attraction or business must have received a Certificate of Excellence for five consecutive years. The certificates are awarded based on users’ reviews and opinions on

The Hall of Fame winning parks are Cathedral Caverns State Park, Chewacla State Park, DeSoto State Park, Gulf State Park, Joe Wheeler State Park, Monte Sano State Park and Oak Mountain State Park.


“The most rewarding facet of this recognition is that it comes from visitors’ opinions and rankings,” said Greg Lein, Alabama State Parks Director. “For seven parks to receive Certificates of Excellence for five straight years is remarkable. We are so proud of our staff and volunteers for the hard work they do that is reflected by the high regard our visitors hold in the parks.”

According to TripAdvisor, to qualify for a Certificate of Excellence, a business must “maintain an overall TripAdvisor rating of at least four out of five; have a minimum number of reviews; and have been listed on TripAdvisor for at least twelve months.”
The awards are announced annually in May.

The Hall of Fame recognition for the Alabama State Parks system totaled nine as Gulf State Park in Gulf Shores was recognized in three areas: Beaches/State Parks/Nature; Parks/Outdoor Activities; State Parks/Piers; Boardwalks, Nature; Parks, Sights and Landmarks, Outdoor Activities; and the Gulf State Park Campground for Specialty Lodging.

The other Hall of Fame designees are Cathedral Caverns State Park in Woodville (Caverns; Caves/Nature; Parks); Chewacla State Park in Auburn (State Parks/Nature; Parks); DeSoto State Park in Fort Payne (State Parks/Nature;
Parks); Joe Wheeler State Park in Rogersville (State Parks/Nature; Parks); Monte Sano State Park in Huntsville (State Parks/Nature; Parks); and Oak Mountain State Park in Pelham (State Parks/Nature; Parks/Biking Trails/Outdoor Activities).

Four parks – or parks attractions – were back-to-back winners, picking up Certificates of Excellence in 2017 and 2018. Those are Cheaha State Park in Delta (State Parks/Nature; Parks); DeSoto Falls (Mountains/Nature; Wildlife
Areas/State Parks/Waterfalls/Nature; Parks); Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail at Gulf State Park (Hiking Trails/Nature; Parks/Outdoor Activities); Lake Guntersville State Park (State Parks/Nature; Parks); and Wind Creek State Park in Alexander City (State Parks/Nature; Parks).

Two parks were awarded Certificates of Excellence for the first time: Meaher State Park in Spanish Fort (State Parks/Nature; Parks); and Rickwood Caverns State Park in Warrior (State Parks/Nature; Parks).

About Alabama’s State Parks System

The Alabama State Parks is a division of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. The division maintains 22 parks encompassing approximately 48,000 acres of land and water. These parks rely on visitor fees and the support of other partners like local communities to fund the majority of their operations. Download the State Parks app at For more information about Alabama State Parks, go online to Partners Pay the Way.