Alabama River a great asset to Selma

Published 11:28 pm Monday, February 10, 2014

It makes the job of a reporter a bit easier when the city they cover becomes the topic of conversation in a national or statewide conversation, and that was exactly what happened when I covered a meeting of the Coosa-Alabama River Improvement Association, Inc. (CARIA) Friday in Montgomery.

The meeting consisted of speeches from several of the top officials responsible for the protection, preservation and safe use of the state’s inland waterways.

To be honest, before I learned of the assignment earlier in the week, the importance of the Alabama River to Selma and other communities in the state was something I hadn’t put too much thought in to since moving to Selma.

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If nothing else, Friday’s meeting served as a wake-up call for me as to just how important the river has, is and can be for Selma, Dallas County and Alabama.

Among the speakers who addressed the crowd of CARIA members was Linda Vice, Director of the Southwest Alabama Office of Tourism and Film. Vice’s comments were of particular interest to me as she is from Thomasville, and Dallas County is one of the 11 counties she promotes through her work.

Vice did a marvelous job of highlighting the vibrant and interesting communities along the Coosa, Alabama and Tombigbee rivers that have developed synergistic relationships with those waterways.

Vice hailed the river communities of Boykin and Camden, highlighting the role the river has played in the success of these communities.

But it was Vice who brought up the city of Selma, in regards to tourism, and she hailed the opportunity the city has to showcase itself once again as the Queen City of the Black Belt.

Vice’s speech focused on the tourism dollars that Selma could potentially make in the future, through the preservation and promotion of the Alabama River.

Vice spent a good five minutes of her 15-minute speech talking about Selma’s relationship with the Alabama River, including the incredible access the river could give boat travelers to the city’s downtown.

“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 come 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.”

Plans for the future development of Riverfront Park include boat docks that would further strengthen the relationship between the river and the city.

Vice made a strong case for the ability, and the necessity, of the river to attract even more tourists, and their wallets, to Selma and Dallas County.

With the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday on the horizon, I hope the river is one asset the community and our leaders remember and can highlight to both ourselves and visitors in the coming months.