Gov. Kay Ivey recently joined in the celebrations of major improvements in boating access in west central Alabama and at the Gulf Coast with ribbon-cutting ceremonies at Demopolis City Landing and The Launch at ICW.
Ivey joined local leaders and dignitaries on the banks of the Tombigbee River on Thursday to open Demopolis City Landing, enabling the area to capitalize on the increase in fishing participation and providing the ability to host local, regional and major fishing tournaments on the Tombigbee and Black Warrior rivers.
“I am honored to be here to cut the ribbon on the new boat ramp here in Demopolis,” Governor Ivey said. “Truly, this first-class project demonstrates the efficiency of Alabama cooperation. Working together with the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR), the City of Demopolis and Marengo County brought this $3 million investment to west Alabama, which will provide millions of dollars of economic benefit to our Black Belt region of the state.”
The Demopolis City Landing provides a four-lane boat launch with 53 paved parking spots, three handicapped parking sports, green-space parking for hundreds more and 250 feet of docking space.
“Here in Alabama, we are presented with the unique opportunity to not only use our state’s bountiful natural resources to grow our economy but to improve the quality of life of Alabamians through the encouragement of the use of our outdoor recreation,” Governor Ivey said. “This project will allow the Demopolis community to capitalize on great fishing on the Black Warrior and Tombigbee rivers. In fact, with this facility, Marengo County can now host regional and national bass tournaments to help promote access to these waters. Our friends at Alabama Power Company and B.A.S.S. (Bass Anglers Sportsman Society) have continued their longstanding partnership by providing a pavilion for a much-needed space for organizations, from local bass clubs to the largest tournaments, to hold their weigh-ins. And folks, I have participated in a bass weigh-in, so I know that having some space will be yet another plus.
“I fully expect to watch the tourism industry grow even more after the opening of this boat ramp here in Demopolis. We’re known as ‘Alabama the Beautiful’ for a reason, and this opening will allow more of our families, from far and near, to get out and experience our great state. Folks, this project is not an end but just the beginning. In the next few weeks, Commissioner (Chris) Blankenship and the Conservation Department will be developing more boating access like here in Demopolis, but I know this one here in Marengo County will be tough to beat. May God continue to bless each of you and the great state of Alabama.”
Marengo County Commissioner Jason Windham said the project went through many starts and stops before it reached fruition.
“I was about ready to throw my hands up, but Freddy (Padilla with Alabama Power) said you’ve got to finish it; you’ve got to do it,” Windham said. “Land the plane and get this project started.”
Bids for the project came in double the original estimate. To continue the project and complete the landing, ADCNR increased the funding they were providing, and the Marengo County Commission, the Marengo County Economic Development Authority, the Marengo Parks and Recreation Board, the Demopolis Parks and Recreation Board and the City of Demopolis formed a coalition to help fund the additional local match for the project. Alabama Power and B.A.S.S. provided funding toward the construction of two pavilions. Local businesses and companies provided other assets to complete the pavilions.
“It’s been an amazing adventure and amazing journey,” Windham said. “What we figured out was that when the City of Demopolis and Marengo County need to come together, they do. I’m proud to stand here today and say we landed the plane.”
Demopolis Mayor Woody Collins added, “If we tried to thank everybody, we’d be here for hours. There were so many people behind the scenes that have contributed. We know who you are, and we appreciate you so much.”
Commissioner Blankenship said he and Deputy Commissioner Ed Poolos traveled to Demopolis and met with Padilla and Demopolis and Marengo County officials and quickly recognized the need for the launch facility and what it could mean for this area.
Commissioner Blankenship and Deputy Commissioner Poolos returned to Montgomery and met with ADCNR staff to devise a plan to find funding for the project and move it up in the priority list of other projects scheduled around the state. They also worked with the (U.S. Army) Corps of Engineers to speed up the permitting process to allow the work to proceed.
“The passion these guys have for their community and their plan to do something big like this was contagious,” Commissioner Blankenship said. “None of us had the money to do this project alone, but we figured that if we all pulled together, we could get it done. As with any project like this, there were challenges, but any time I called Jason or the mayor, these guys were great, and we worked through every problem. When the bids came in double, I was so thankful we were able to work together to make this happen. The river above flood stage, the bids over budget, soupy soil, rock that had to be drilled to put the pilings down, relocating endangered mussels and other issues were handled quickly and professionally, which goes to show that, if you’re interested in working together and want to make things happen, you can.”
Commissioner Blankenship said the improvements in access to Alabama’s great outdoors have numerous benefits that may not be readily recognized.
“Alabama is truly blessed with woods and waters from one end of the state to the other,” Commissioner Blankenship said. “The Black Belt is such a beautiful and important part of our state. I’m glad to be here to dedicate this new facility. With the spectacular fishing in all the various waterways, demand for boating access is through the roof here in Demopolis. Building public access is a priority for me as the Commissioner. Acquisition of public hunting land and other public recreational land, building tournament-style boat ramps and piers, trail-building and blueway creation are all in progress around the state.
“Expanding outdoor recreation is one of the biggest opportunities that we have to retain workers in Alabama,” he said. “Having a facility like this in west Alabama will really help this part of the state capitalize on the natural resources that God so richly blessed this area with.”
On Friday, Governor Ivey and Commissioner Blankenship headed to Alabama’s beautiful Gulf Coast and the dedication of The Launch at ICW (Intracoastal Waterway), just across the canal from The Wharf.
The new launch facility provides a great deal of access to the Gulf Shores-Orange Beach area with about 200 trailer parking spots and a multiple-lane boat ramp. The $19 million project was a joint effort with GOMESA (Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act) funds from the State of Alabama and Baldwin County. Governor Ivey committed $10.1 million in state GOMESA funding, while the Baldwin County Commission committed an additional $8.1 million in county GOMESA funding. Another $750,000 from local county funds supported the project.
With more than 1,700 feet of water frontage, the 47-acre property in Orange Beach has a ramp capable of launching six boats at once with docking facilities. In addition to lighted parking, that facility has six covered pavilions with picnic table seating, a grand pavilion, and more than a mile of concrete sidewalks and boardwalks throughout the pavilion and launch areas.
“This large capacity boat ramp was much needed in Coastal Alabama,” said Commissioner Blankenship. “The project was done first-class. The design and beefy materials for the piers, boardwalks, pavilions and restroom facilities were designed to withstand the numerous tropical events that impact this area. It was built right and should be here to provide access to our great boating and fishing resources for decades to come. The Launch at ICW was a dream of Senator Chris Elliott and others. We had numerous conversations on how to make it happen. I am so glad to be here today with Governor Ivey to see this dream is now a reality.”