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3 weeks ago

Gulf State Park Interpretive Center, Pedestrian Bridge open

A glimpse of the rebirth of Gulf State Park’s beachside facilities was revealed by Gov. Kay Ivey last week during an unveiling of the park’s Interpretive Center and East Pedestrian Bridge.

Gov. Ivey, Conservation Commissioner Chris Blankenship and other dignitaries cut the ribbon to the entrance of the Interpretive Center and Pedestrian Bridge, two significant parts of the Gulf State Park Enhancement Project located adjacent to the park’s Beach Pavilion.

As work continues to restore the facilities that were basically wiped out by Hurricane Ivan in 2004, the much-anticipated Lodge and Conference Center are expected to open in late fall of this year.

Blankenship said last week’s dedication was the first of many events that will occur at Gulf State Park to reveal the additions and renovations to this cherished area on the Alabama Gulf Coast.

“I’m sure you have very special memories of your experiences here at Gulf State Park,” Blankenship said. “This is a very special place to me. I’m proud to be the Commissioner of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and oversee all our great state parks, including Gulf State Park. That’s one of the highlights of my job.

“I’ve been coming here since I was 3 years old, when we moved to Mobile from north Alabama. I have such great memories of the campground, the beach, the old pavilion and the old lodge and conference center. This is a great place. My daughter was married right out here on the beach. But this park is more than just the beach. At Gulf State Park, we have dunes, lakes, marshes, maritime forests, uplands, pine tree groves, oak bottoms, deer, raccoons, alligators, beach mice, insects like butterflies, and birds of all kinds, including birds of prey.”

In addition to the cabins and cottages, Blankenship listed the activities at Gulf State Park, including camping, hiking, biking, walking, swimming, fishing, boating, crabbing, birding, shelling, golfing, nature education, family gatherings and just relaxing.

For Gov. Ivey, that special status extends the length of the state.

“Alabama is indeed a special place we call home,” Gov. Ivey said. “From the Tennessee Valley, we have the beautiful mountains. In Birmingham, we have world-class food. We see the speed of the race cars at Talladega, and on down to the beautiful waters of the Gulf Coast.

“Let’s be honest. On a day like today, this is where everybody wants to be – in Gulf Shores. There’s no other place on the Gulf Coast that is more perfect and beautiful. That’s the reason we want to protect and continue to grow this part of our state.”

Ivey explained why the Interpretive Center and the East Pedestrian Bridge are crucial parts of the Gulf State Park Enhancement Project.

“Both are important to the public’s access to Gulf State Park and to cementing Gulf State Park as a world-class facility and premiere tourist destination on the Gulf Coast,” Ivey said. “The Interpretive Center will be the launching point for the 28 miles of trails in the park. The Interpretive Center will have a variety of interactive exhibits telling the story of the natural history of this part of the state and how our ecology has evolved over time.

“The Pedestrian Bridge will be one of two bridges here. Visitors and citizens alike have told us loud and clear that we must make it possible to have a safe passage through this beautiful property. The new bridge will provide safe crossing over the East Beach Boulevard and serve as an entrance for the neighbors in Orange Beach and Gulf Shores.”

Ivey said the environmentally sensitive aspects of the buildings and facilities at Gulf State Park set an example for sustainable tourism throughout the world.

Bill Bennett of Valor Hospitality, which is under contract to operate the new additions at Gulf State Park, said the sustainable aspects of the projects will generate about five percent more power and water than what the facilities need to operate. The Interpretive Center has been certified as a Living Building, passing the most rigorous certification process in the world.

“The building is made from materials that are safe for the planet, safe for the people and are all sourced here,” Bennett said. “The Living Building designation is very significant. In January of 2018, there were only 16 Living Buildings in the entire world, and we’re lucky to have one here on the Gulf Coast of Alabama.”

Matt Leavell, a member of the Gulf State Park Project Development Team at the University of Alabama, said the team faced two hurdles in designing the Interpretive Center, which will include an open-air porch with interpretive exhibits that outline the nine different ecologies present at the park, a multi-use room for education and community events, restroom facilities, bike parking and amphitheater seating. At ground level, visitors can enjoy a water play exhibit and sky-viewing benches.

“The challenge was how do you make this international benchmark (Living Building) and introduce people to everything, not just the beaches,” Leavell said. “Those two challenges caused us the minimize the footprint. We set the building back as far as we could. We worked with a team of scientists to determine how these dunes move and want to grow. Then we created this multi-use space where the community can come and hold events, and we can show them how they can build in the coastal environment. They also get to learn about the park through the interpretive exhibits. The entire park is meant to be educational. That’s part of the park’s mission statement.

“The Interpretive Center is a gateway to the entire Park, physically with the bridge and then educationally with the interpretive displays and activities.”

The facilities will also fill a need on the Alabama Gulf Coast that has gone unfulfilled for the past 14 years.

“More than 20 years ago, Mercedes was a game-changer for the auto manufacturing industry in Alabama,” Gov. Ivey said. “These enhancements we’re looking at today to Alabama’s Gulf will be a game-changer for tourism in our state. With Gulf State Park, we’ll keep conferences here in Alabama. Folks won’t have to go to Florida or elsewhere. They’ll stay right here in Alabama. This facility is going to attract visitors from around the world.”

Gov. Ivey said she joined Lee Sentell, Alabama’s Tourism Director, earlier in the week to talk about the good news in the Alabama tourism industry, which grew by seven percent in 2017. Gov. Ivey said for the first time, Alabama had more than 26 million visitors, an increase of 810,000 over 2016. That translated into an economic boost of $1 billion for a total economic impact from tourism of $14.3 billion. That economic expansion included 7,000 new jobs in the travel industry, which now employs 187,000 in Alabama.

“With these improvements, Gulf State Park will truly be a world-class facility and the crown jewel of Alabama’s tourism,” Gov. Ivey said. “I’m proud to lead a state that has so much to offer our visitors. People from around the world want to experience what we have here in Sweet Home Alabama.”

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.


14 mins ago

Trump lets bygones be bygones as he backs Roby in Alabama

President Donald Trump is letting bygones be bygones as he endorses embattled Alabama Republican Rep. Martha Roby for re-election.

Trump tweeted on Friday: “Congresswoman Martha Roby of Alabama has been a consistent and reliable vote for our Make America Great Again Agenda.”


Roby had publicly withdrawn her endorsement of Trump in the final days of the 2016 election after the release of the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape.

Roby had said that the tape made Trump “unacceptable” as a candidate for president.

Roby was forced earlier this month into a runoff with Democrat-turned-Republican Bobby Bright.

Bright, a former congressman, has embraced the president and charged Roby with being insufficiently supportive of Trump.

Trump is rejecting Bright as “a recent Nancy Pelosi voting Democrat” ahead of the July 17 runoff.

(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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44 mins ago

Prattville woman accused of stealing from city’s youth baseball program

Police say a board member of an Alabama city’s youth baseball program is accused of stealing $15,000 to $20,000 from the program.

Prattville Police Chief Mark Thompson tells The Montgomery Advertiser that 38-year-old Lindsey Leigh Martin turned herself in on a theft of property charge on Tuesday.


She was released after posting a $10,000 bond.

Courthouse records show the Prattville woman is accused of stealing $15,000 to $20,000 from the Dixie Youth baseball program.

Court records show that she doesn’t have an attorney.

The newspaper could not reach board members of the Dixie Youth organization for comment.

(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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1 hour ago

7 Things: No immigration bill, all of Alabama’s government loves new taxes they don’t have to pass, “fake news” fuels family separation crisis, and more …

1. No immigration plan vote coming on compromise immigration bill as we careen towards crisis; Trump blows it all up

— The more conservative “Goodlatte bill” failed, the “compromise bill” was delayed until today and now postponed until next week which hands Democrats another victory on immigration.

— Senator Jeff Sessions claimed separations were never their desired outcome, but without a positive ruling by a federal judge to allow longer family detentions the only options will be separations or catch-and-release, Democrats don’t care because they want more illegals.

2. New potential taxes on Internet purchases excites media outlets and politicians in Alabama

— New revenue always makes liberals happy, but the Alabama retail association and Governor Kay Ivey are gushing over this opportunity to allow you to pay more for Internet purchases.

— The framing that this give retailers a level playing field is accurate, but the biggest retailers are already paying the state voluntarily and this new tax will hit smaller retailers and consumers.

3. The face of the “family separationwasn’t separated from her family at all; her father is mad at the mother

— TIME magazine decided to use a picture of a Yanela Hernandez crying on the cover of their magazine to highlight how awful America is — the whole thing is fake news.

— Denis Hernandez, the father of this kid, said his wife and daughter were never separated, he never got to say goodbye, she was not fleeing violence because she was seeking a “better future,” and she paid a coyote $6,000 dollars to smuggle her.

4. Amtrak sucks; Gov. Kay Ivey agrees


— Anyone that has taken an Amtrak train outside of the Northeast corridor knows that the service leaves a lot to be desired. In Alabama the previous service took two hours and twenty minutes for a trip where a drive took two hours and ten minutes.

— The cost for a return to Amtrak service in Alabama would cost the state almost six million dollars and is not a priority. Her opponent for governor says this means Alabama is on the “wrong track“.

5. The Business Council of Alabama is in trouble

— After a week of BCA hemorrhaging big donor members, the next head of the group has bailed as well, BCA Progress PAC Chairman Mike Kemp was in charge of handling the political donations of the group.

—’s Cameron Smith argues that this could be good for consumers, mostly arguing that a BCA without massive businesses supporting it can actually argue for a better business climate (lower power rates) and lower health care costs.

6. The First Lady wore a jacket

— You cannot make me care about this, but you can try.

— After the First Lady’s team says there was no message, Trump says it is about the media.

7. Wannabe terrorist is sentenced to prison for plotting to kill cops and soldiers in Huntsville

— A judge sentenced Aziz Ihab Sayyed to 15 years in federal prison for plotting with the Islamic State to plan attacks in the United States.

— He bought bomb components in order to attack police stations and the military installation Redstone Arsenal.

2 hours ago

Southern Alabama county placing police in all schools

One of Alabama’s most populous counties has a plan to put armed police officers in each of its public schools.

Officials in coastal Baldwin County say agencies are partnering to provide permanent school resource officers at each of its 46 campuses beginning this August.


Currently, only some county schools have officers on duty constantly.

Sheriff Huey “Hoss” Mack says Baldwin already has 30 school resource officers, meaning 16 more are needed.

The sheriff’s office and city police departments will have to fill those positions.

Officials haven’t provided details on how all the new jobs will be funded, but they say new taxes aren’t needed.

School board members will consider the plan during a meeting Thursday.

Baldwin County has more than 200,000 residents, and it’s located across Mobile Bay from Mobile.

(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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3 hours ago

2 Alabama men sentenced in sex trafficking scheme

A federal judge has sentenced two men to prison in what prosecutors describe as a sex-trafficking scheme in central Alabama.

A statement from prosecutors says 25-year-old Michael Graham Lowe of Prattville was sentenced to more than 18 years in prison during a hearing Thursday.


Thirty-year-old Joshua David Rose of Prattville got almost 17 years in prison.

Authorities say Rose used an internet site to advertise a girl as being available for sex acts, and Lowe helped.

Authorities say the men then stood guard outside a motel room while the young victim engaged in sex for money.

Rose pleaded guilty last year, and jurors convicted Lowe earlier this year.

Both men must spend 15 years on probation after prison, and U.S. District Judge Scott Coogler ordered each to pay restitution.

(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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