Author: Jane Nicholes

Trek the new Tree Trail

Historic Blakeley State Park opens its new Champion Tree Trail on Saturday, Feb. 25, as part of its Arbor Day celebration. The Champion Tree Trail stars two Alabama Champion Trees as well as many other native species that will have signs identifying them. The Champion Trees are a Sweetbay Magnolia, which has 18-inch-long leaves, and a Hercules Club, more commonly known as the “toothache” tree because because chewing on the leaves or bark causes numbing of the teeth, mouth and gums. Native Americans used the toothache tree for medicinal purposes, Jo Ann Flirt, director of the park, said. “It is an incredibly ugly tree,” she admitted. But it is also large, historic and unusual. The day begins at 8:15 a.m. with a tree tour led by Dean Trawick, a forester and project manager with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The narrated trail walk is free with regular park admission of $4 for adults and $3 for children ages 6-12. Families are welcome to bring well-behaved dogs on leashes, Flirt said. Blakeley will also be giving away tree seedlings for people to plant at home, courtesy of the Alabama Forestry Commission. A Delta Adventure boat tour of the Mobile-Tensaw River Delta is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. The two-hour tour costs $25 for adults and $15 for children ages 6-12. Seats are first-come, first-served or may be reserved by calling...

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Controversy in Fairhope escalates for mayor, council, Airport Authority

Here’s what passed for a quiet City Council meeting in Fairhope on Monday. • Dean Mosher, well-known artist and historian, plugged his YouTube video asking questions about the Fairhope Airport Authority and said he was looking forward to getting the answers. • Paul Ripp, a local blogger and longtime critic of city government, blasted the Airport Authority for hiring an attorney to investigate his activities and allegedly false claims against the board and to potentially file suit against him. • Robert Brown, a council member, said he would not respond to questions or debates originating on social media, but citizens were welcome to call him on issues. • Mayor Karin Wilson did not publicly raise her voice, interrupt the conduct of business or make any threats, all of which took place at last week’s Airport Authority meeting. Since Wilson and three new council members — Brown, Jimmy Conyers and Jay Robinson — took office in November, the workings of Fairhope city government and the authority that governs the municipal airport have become increasingly controversial, not to mention noisy. Incumbent council members Jack Burrell and Kevin Boone have been in the thick of arguments with Wilson over consultant contracts, personnel issues, the timing of a moratorium on new subdivisions and whether the city or the Airport Authority should control the municipal airport. Wilson campaigned in large part on themes of...

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South Alabama Mega Site remains vacant despite other development coups

Baldwin County is growing fast and its economic outlook is good, but its mega site is entering its fifth year without a tenant. In southwest Alabama, “Baldwin County is the only county to have positive job growth,” Lee Lawson, president of the Economic Development Alliance, told the County Commission last week. “We’ve had 4 percent job growth over the last nine years.” Lawson said Baldwin was the fastest growing county in Alabama last year based on U.S. Census projections. Housing starts and building permits are up over pre-recession levels, he said, although housing prices have not quite caught up. The alliance’s website, www.baldwineda.com, listed these major expansions and investments for 2016: • UTC Aerospace Systems announced an 80,000-square-foot expansion in Foley, creating 260 new jobs. • Morganton Pressure Vessels established a new manufacturing operation in Bay Minette with 70 new jobs. • The Daphne Science and Innovation Complex, a white-collar office park, received a federal grant of $845,583 that is expected to generate another $5 million in private investment and create more than 100 jobs. • Auburn University announced it will build a 24,000-square-foot educational complex in Gulf Shores. • Thomas Hospital in Fairhope broke ground on the county’s first freestanding emergency department. • The Poarch Band of Creek Indians began construction on its OWA amusement park and entertainment complex outside Foley. “We saw good diversity in manufacturing, white...

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Residential, retail development proposed in Belforest

Developers say a proposed residential and retail development in Belforest will be a model of smart growth and planned-community principles. Nearby residents worry about its effects on flooding, traffic and school overcrowding. Joseph A. Allegri Jr. Properties and developers Craig and Daniel Dyas seek approval for a 42.8-acre planned unit development (PUD) at the northwest corner of State Highway 181 and County Road 64. The intersection is considered to be the heart of the Belforest community, just east of Daphne. The Allegri PUD would comprise retail space, a smaller retail area with living spaces upstairs, multi-family units, detached townhomes,...

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Daphne officials attend Florida retreat

Daphne city leaders spent the weekend at the beach. Mayor Dane Haygood, the City Council and City Clerk Rebecca Hayes went on retreat to Rosemary Beach, Florida, last Friday through Sunday. Waterfront development and planned communities were the main themes of the trip. The itinerary included tours of the planned town of Seaside, Alys Beach, the unincorporated master-planned community of Rosemary Beach and parks in Panama City Beach. “We had multiple town architects and town planners give tours of different communities,” Haygood said. “For instance, we’re talking about amphitheaters here in Daphne. We saw three different varieties of amphitheaters with various levels of capital investment.” The group also looked at town centers to see what characteristics might be adapted to Olde Towne Daphne, he said. Another subject of study was how to reduce costs while enhancing parks. Councilman Pat Rudicell said placing an amphitheater at Bayfront Park has been under discussion for about a year. The city currently has $1.2 million in a capital fund for improvements at the park, he said. Rudicell said he and Councilman Robin LeJeune voted against the retreat because Rosemary Beach was presented as the only choice. They thought it should have been held in Baldwin County or at least in Alabama, he said. Nonetheless, all council members attended. Some spouses and children also came along, Rudicell said, but the city covered only the...

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