State grant will help with river signs

Published 9:24 pm Saturday, February 22, 2014

An $80,000 grant awarded to the Alabama Scenic River Trail will be put toward the purchase of new signs to be placed along the state’s inland waterways, including several sites in Dallas County.

The signs, which will be placed at between 150 and 200 sites along the 2,500-mile cross-state trail, will provide boaters with directional information as well as additional information about the waterways and nearby travel and lodging destinations.

Jim Plott, spokesperson with the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs said the main goal of the grant, which was awarded by Gov. Robert Bentley, was to make travel on the state’s waterways easier and safer.

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“The purpose of these signs is to get more people on the rivers,” Plott said. “And I think a lot of people have been sort of hesitant in the past because it can get really confusing. A lot of times, if there was a sign telling you how far you had to go to a gas station or a hotel, it would definitely help.”

Jim Felder, executive director with the Alabama Scenic River Trail, said several signs would be put on display at different sites in Dallas County, including the Selma City Marina and along the Cahaba River as it passes under U.S. Highway 80 west of Selma.

“They are going to typically be placed where you can see them from the water or the boat ramps,” Felder said. “It will show you where you and your family can camp, where are some cool places to see and who can you call for more information. It’s kind of our way to give back to the communities that have really supported us in the past.”

Acknowledging the grant would not allow the ASRT to place signs at every location they would like, Felder said it is a huge step toward that reality.

“We have $80,000 dollars to do this and I’ve heard estimates by signage experts I’ve consulted that said we need to have probably $1 million dollars,” Felder said. “But, we have $80,000, and we will get it done.”

The grant was awarded from funds made available to state under the Federal Highway Administration’s Recreational Trails Program. The Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs administers the program in Alabama.

Felder said the ASRT must get permission from other agencies, including the Army Corps of Engineers and the Alabama Department of Transportation, before placing the signs to ensure they are not placed in areas that would be dangerous for boaters.