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Alabama rivers big for tourism

A variety of topics were discussed during Friday’s annual meeting of the Coosa-Alabama River Improvement Association, Inc. Montgomery, but for a period of time, the meeting’s focus turned to the importance of the rivers within the state to towns and cities, and Selma was a big part of that discussion.

Linda Vice, Director of the Southwest Alabama Office of Tourism and Film, presented a list of interesting communities that can be found along the banks of the Alabama, Coosa and Tombigbee rivers, and Selma was at the top of her list.

“In Selma, you can come right up to downtown Selma with the marina they have there and you can get out and see Civil War and Civil Rights history,” Vice said. “People coming from all over the world to see where the voting rights movement truly began and to participate in that, and Selma does not yet know it’s own strengths in tourism or river traffic, and when it discovers how those two fit together, it’s going to be huge.”

Vice said the role of rivers in both the history and future of Alabama tourism is something that has helped groups like CARIA assemble a coalition aimed at protecting the vital waterways.

“We have a solution for preserving the ecology of the river, the beauty of the river, the history of the river, and the economics of the river through tourism,” Vice said. “What we have is a group of tourism partners from all different walks of life who work with us to preserve and protect the river.”

Vise said the river can be a source of pride, and tourism dollars, for smaller riverside towns in the southwestern portion of the state.

“We are poor, we are rural, we have limited assets, but we’ve got that river,” Vice said. “We have more biological diversity than any other area in the world, other than the Amazon. And we have so many ecological, biological, cultural and historical aspects that come together in the river.”

Jerry Sailors, President of CARIA, said the use of rivers as tourist attractions is something his group, as well as state leaders, has fully embraces in hopes of exploit for the economic betterment of riverside communities, as well as the state itself.

“From our perspective, these are natural resources that have a lot of potential yet to be developed in a lot of different areas, and for the Alabama River in particular, one of those areas is tourism,” Sailors said.

“We are going to continue to emphasize the commercial value of these rivers, but the we are working to get everyone to embrace these rivers from a number of economic angles.”