Boaters make ‘Load the Locks’ a success

Published 6:41 am Sunday, August 25, 2013

By Jay Sowers

The Selma Times-Journal


A year after it was announced the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers planned to restrict recreational traffic through the three locks along the Alabama River — at Claiborne, Millers Ferry and R.F. Henry — an attempt to mobilize the public for a one day blitz on the locks appears to have been a success in the eyes of Alabama Scenic River Trail director Jim Fielder.

Fielder was in the crowd for the “Load the Locks” event, which was held at the Millers Ferry Lock and Dam in Millers Ferry, last Saturday, and he said a large number of people and watercraft were on hand.

“People of every age turned out for the event,” Fielder said. “Cabin cruisers, pontoons, runabouts, bass boats, powered canoes, jet skis, houseboats, canoes, kayaks and paddleboards were represented.”

Before Saturday’s event, organizer Bobby Sillivan, a native of Minter, hoped this one day rush on the locks would show the Corps that the locks should remain open for recreational use.

“One of the reasons they’re considering shutting our river down is because we don’t have enough lockage,” Sillivan said. “That’s the thing we’re trying to do is get more lockage. People don’t realize what benefits the locks bring to the area. They have just a tremendous amount of economic impact on the communities like Camden, Selma and Monroeville.”

For Sillivan, the Corps’ position on the locks is simple.

“Use ‘em or lose ‘em,” he said.

Justin Atwell, owner of PaddleSouth Standup Paddleboard Sales and Rentals in Columbiana, brought his family and friends along to take part in the event. Organizers said they are most likely the first people to lock through an Alabama River dam standing up.

Atwell told event promoters he sees great potential in the docks, as well as the river itself.

“This opens up a while new world of paddling for our family,” Atwell said. “We never dreamed that the Alabama River would be so enjoyable. We’re fans now, and we’ll be back.”