9 months ago

Great Alabama 650, toughest paddle race in the U.S., hits water Saturday

It’s a test of strength, endurance and mental fortitude.

The Great Alabama 650 takes paddlers on an epic adventure along the core section of the Alabama Scenic River Trail, the longest trail of its kind in a single state.

From rushing whitewater to the ambling river delta, the race will challenge even the most experienced paddler.

The world-class race starts Sept. 14 on Weiss Lake in northeast Alabama and end at Fort Morgan in Mobile Bay. Racers have 10 days to complete the course, and a $22,500 prize will be split among three divisions.

Race director Greg Wingo owns a consulting firm specializing in outdoor recreation. He was approached by the Alabama Scenic River Trail based on his background of organizing events. He’s an ultra-runner and co-founded a trail running group in Birmingham.

He said organizing a race on the water is much different than one on the land and presents unique challenges for competitors and organizers alike.

“When it comes to a paddle race and, specifically with our race where we have several different bodies of water, the logistics behind that are quite a bit more complicated,” Wingo said. “On top of that, there is a level of navigating and orienteering that’s involved for the paddlers that’s not quite as common in most running races.”

The three race divisions are male solo, female solo and two-person teams. Racers who sign up for the solo division must have at least one “crewperson” to assist throughout the race.

Also providing help are “trail angels,” people who live along the water who will assist racers, offering snacks or a place for a hot shower.

“All along the trail, there are people that live close by and love this waterway and love to help out paddlers,” Wingo said. “We’ve created a network of these angels to help out paddlers with pretty much anything on their route – acts of kindness that have been in place for decades now and we’ll be utilizing them for this race.”

These angels and a host of other volunteers will be a major force in keeping the race running properly. Most will be stationed at eight portages along the race. At the portages, racers will be required to get out of their boat and take a mandatory break. Most of these stations are at sites of dams and other places that will need to be bypassed.

“Volunteers are absolutely critical for this race,” Wingo said. “The primary responsibility of the volunteers at the portages will be to make sure racers get their mandatory time out of the water and to check on them.”

Wingo said as the race proceeds and competitors spread out, more volunteers are needed to staff the stations, some hundreds of miles apart.

“At the beginning of the race this isn’t a huge deal because the racers are still close together, but as the days go by the racers spread out, based on their ability, pretty far, so we’ll need to man multiple portages over a couple of hundred miles, staffing them 24 hours a day,” Wingo said.

As a safety precaution, race coordinators and volunteers will be able to track racers.

“We’re going to have an entire mapping system using spot trackers so you can look at the map and see where racers are at all times,” Wingo said.

Roger Yeargan, Hydro manager for the Lower Coosa River system, said Alabama Power’s hydro plants will be partnering with Alabama Scenic River Trail in support of the Great Alabama 650.

“Safety is our first priority, and EMTs will be provided access at the downstream portage locations to evaluate the racers prior to reentry,” Yeargan said. “Alabama ranks in the top five in the United States for water resources, and this event should put a spotlight on one of our great natural resources.”

At each of the six Alabama Power dams along the Coosa River, employees will verify the canoe portage is clean and ready to use. Race participants will exit the river at a designated point above each dam and reenter the river at a designated point in the tailrace below each day.

For more information on registering as a volunteer or as a racer, visit alabamascenicrivertrail.com.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

6 mins ago

Protests don’t have to end in tear gas

The latest contentious protest in Alabama took place in Huntsville Wednesday night as the city made it clear that it would not be tolerating lawlessness and open-hostility in the street.

How long can they hold this position? Time will tell.

Before we get started, let’s take a second to remember all of this is predicated on the unanimous agreement among citizens and politicians alike that an event that happened over 2,000+ miles away was horrendous, illegal and needs to be aggressively punished to the full extent of the law.

No one in Huntsville has expressed a different opinion or begrudged anyone for being outraged.

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This was not a clear lie, much like the Michael Brown situation in Ferguson. This was clearly a situation where a man was killed at the hands of the police while in restraints and unarmed. Period.

But this is still a society where free speech is not only important — it is necessary.

That means that the government will not infringe on your right to assemble and voice your opinion. The value of that opinion is irrelevant. Klan members and Nazis have utilized it because unpopular speech is what needs to be protected.

Stating that George Floyd should be alive is not controversial in any way, and no one has pretended otherwise.

As protests across the country indicate, a multi-racial cross-section of America has taken to the streets to share this opinion.

But, and this is important, I can’t walk into a judge’s chambers or scream my opinion while running down the freeway expressing it as cars try to avoid me.

In Huntsville and everywhere else, you need a permit to close city streets, and the city appears to have even been lax on that in this matter.

Trust me, I know something about this:


Obviously, you can just walk in the road and force the authorities to stop you. Maybe they will give you “space to destroy,” maybe they won’t.

Much like Monday’s protest, Wednesday’s protest ended with most protesters going home. Both were followed with a standoff that ended in tear gas (quibble if you want, that’s what it was).

Why? Because after the protest, a portion of the protesters moved on while a remaining mob decided they were going to stand in the street until the cops made them move.

They wanted negative attention, and they got it.

Where does this end?

Huntsville’s downtown area was already shut down for two days this week. Is this to be expected every other day until those protesting declare we have racial equality? It’s unlikely we ever get there.

So at some point, the city will be required to open up the street and the protesters will have to move on.

The warning was given repeatedly. It was obvious that the crowd was not going to leave the road until a reaction from law enforcement was obtained.

So they got one. Tear gas was deployed, things were thrown, an officer was hurt and 24 non-protesters were arrested.

Did this advance the cause of the actual protests? No. It hurt them.

Was disruption the goal after the fact? Probably, so mission accomplished.

Citizens do not want this strife in their city, especially when they already agree with the cause.

Most Americans know we can always be better as a society.

Most Americans know we have come a long way from where we have been.

Most Americans want peace and fairness but they also want law and order in their communities.

Some in the media are sitting at home egging-on the protesters and hoping for more lawlessness.

But that is about them. Bad behavior at protests and after them emboldens the elected officials and law enforcement to give less leeway to actual protesters. It will also make citizens equate the actual protesters to the rioters and looters we see all day on cable news, and no one should want that.

Dale Jackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a talk show from 7-11 AM weekdays on WVNN.

55 mins ago

Alabama Democratic Party chair calls on Jefferson Davis state holiday to be abolished

State Rep. Chris England (D-Tuscaloosa), the chair of the Alabama Democratic Party, on Thursday sent a letter to Governor Kay Ivey in support of ending the state holiday that recognizes Jefferson Davis’ birthday.

The holiday this year was on Monday, June 1; it is recognized on the first Monday in June of every year in accordance with state law (Section 1-3-8, Code of Alabama 1975).

In his letter, England requested that Ivey include amending this section of state law if she calls a special session this year. The 2020 regular session of the legislature ended last month.

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A spokesperson for Ivey’s office told Yellowhammer News in response to England’s letter, “That is a conversation that would have to begin with the Legislature. However, Governor Ivey is certainly open to sitting down with lawmakers to discuss this proposal.”

England has been a member of the state legislature since November 2006.

Yellowhammer News’ search of online legislative archives found that no bill has been introduced during England’s tenure in the legislature to end Alabama’s state holiday recognizing Jefferson Davis’ birthday.

Before Republicans took control of the legislature in 2010, both the Alabama Senate and the House had been majority-Democrat since 1868.

State Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) and State Sen. Shay Shelnutt (R-Trussville) brought a bill in 2015 that would have made both Jefferson Davis’ birthday holiday and Confederate Memorial Day unpaid state holidays, unless decided otherwise by the governor each year. The holidays are currently paid. That bill passed out of committee but never received a vote on the Senate floor.

Jefferson Davis, a member of the Democratic Party, served as president of the Confederacy from 1861-1865.

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

2 hours ago

Legislation easing restrictions on PPP loan payback supported by Alabama congressional delegation

Each member of Alabama’s congressional delegation voted in support of a bill to ease restrictions on businesses receiving loans under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) that passed Congress this week and now heads to President Donald Trump’s desk.

The bill extends the time businesses have to spend their loans from eight to 24 weeks. Additionally, to qualify for loan forgiveness, borrowers would now be required to spend 60% of the loan on payroll where it had been 75% previously.

The Trump administration told Politico that the program has saved 50 million jobs across the country. The Birmingham Business Journal is reporting that $6 billion in PPP funds have been distributed in Alabama.

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The PPP was created as part of the $2.2 trillion stimulus packages known as the CARES Act that Congress passed in March as an attempt to alleviate the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

The program proved so popular that legislation to replenish the funds proved necessary later in April.

The initial rollout of the program saw overwhelming demand that swamped many loan providers and led to some small businesses not receiving their loans in a timely fashion.

The kinks were later ironed out, and currently, the federal government holds $120 billion in PPP funds still available for a small business in need.

The initial eight-week deadline to pay back the loan for businesses that did not qualify for loan forgiveness was rapidly approaching for many PPP recipients.

Both payroll and rent/mortgage costs are eligible for forgiveness under the program.

Politico reported that some lenders expect an amount of renewed interest in the loans given the extended time available for repayment.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95

3 hours ago

ALDOT awards latest round of local road, bridge grants

Governor Kay Ivey and the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) on Thursday announced that $1.7 million in funding is being awarded to cities and counties for various local road and bridge projects.

The funding is part of ALDOT’s Annual Grant Program, which was created under the Rebuild Alabama Act enacted in spring of 2019.

The annual program by law sets aside $10 million off the top of the state’s share of Rebuild Alabama gas tax revenues for local road and bridge projects. This accounts for a small portion of the overall tax revenues that are put towards infrastructure improvements across the state.

A total of $7 million was already awarded earlier this year, with approximately $1.3 million to be awarded later this fiscal year.

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“Alabamians across the state are continually seeing the progress made on our roads and bridges. These projects now nearing a total of $9 million are going to go a long way in improving our state and the daily lives of every Alabamian,” Ivey said in a statement.

“Having a modern and safe infrastructure system will help Alabama continue to advance, and I remain committed to ensuring that this is a reality for us,” she concluded.

This latest award cycle sees six projects added to the 31 projects announced earlier this year. It is anticipated that all projects will be under contract by the end of the calendar year, after bids are taken.

You can view a list of the six new projects awarded grants here.

In addition to the Annual Grant Program, local governments can also apply for infrastructure funding under the ATRIP-II program, also created by the Rebuild Alabama Act.

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

4 hours ago

Huntsville mayor: ‘People who were not part of our community’ led Wednesday protest which resulted in tear gas usage, police officer injury

Huntsville has made the news after law enforcement officers on Wednesday used tear gas to break up a crowd who reportedly refused to comply with orders to disperse.

At least one police officer was injured Wednesday evening by the so-called protesters, and a reporter on the scene said objects were thrown at law enforcement vehicles. One local business was damaged.

On Thursday morning, Mayor Tommy Battle released a statement about what occurred, noting that “people who were not part of our community” were responsible for the unpermitted gathering that led to the clash.

“Yesterday, our city saw two separate protest events. The first was organized by the local chapter of the NAACP who worked with the City and Huntsville Police to organize a thoughtful event filled with hope and a call for justice,” the mayor said. “We gathered to mourn the tragedy that occurred in Minneapolis. We came together in supporting a First Amendment right to voice a call for change throughout our country. I saw families and small children. Students and seniors. Black and white. Our community has a shared mission – more must be done.”

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However, Battle outlined that a separate gathering from the permitted NAACP event subsequently occurred.

“What occurred after the NAACP event was disheartening,” he noted.

“A second event occurred, structured by people who were not part of our community,” Battle advised. “They gathered at the courthouse to block the square and protest.”

The mayor explained, “This was not part of a permitted event, and there were no local organizers in charge, which becomes a public safety issue. Even so, police allowed the protestors time to express themselves before asking everyone to leave. Most complied, but others did not. Police were clear in their instructions and worked with the remaining protestors for more than an hour before using non-lethal irritants. The protesters had every opportunity to peacefully leave and they chose otherwise. The leadership of this second group is not our community.”

“It is a hard thing for us to see in Huntsville, but we’ve worked too hard to grow this city as a place of respect and opportunity,” Battle concluded. “Let us turn pain into purpose and do the hard work to create meaningful change. We won’t let people and organizations from outside our community turn us against each other. This is a time for us to unite, to protect the city we love and to move forward in a way that is more equitable and just.​”

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