Tourism in Bibb County
The idea has been introduced – TOURISM – as the economic and natural resource savior of Bibb County. Will it happen? A group of over fifty organizations in Bibb County is working to ensure that it will.
Approximately 1/4 of Bibb County’s land mass is held in public lands, The Cahaba River National Wildlife Refuge and The Talladega National Forest, Oakmulgee Division encompassing most of that. Tourism is a Clean Industry. It does not require large amounts of capital. The attributes that attract tourists attract retirees who are economic contributors. Tourism is supported by numerous small businesses. Tourism attracts other industries. Tourism encourages entrepreneurial activity. Quality outdoor recreation amenities increase property values. Our goals are to bring economic development through ecotourism and protection of our natural resources.
ORGANIZE — FOCUS — PLAN — ACT
The idea began with creating a Tourism and Outdoor Recreation Plan. Beginning last August, twenty-five organizations in Bibb County came to meetings that developed and refined the tourism plan now underway in Bibb County. This effort is one of the many projects of Nisa Miranda, Director, of the Center for Economic Development at the University of Alabama. The Cahaba River Society has been a partner in this plan from its outset and has lent support through the aid and time of our third year OSM/VISTA, Liz Salter.
- Increase communication between existing organizations: the tourism partners became just that and the numbers have now increased to over 50 organizations holding some role in this tourism planning effort.
- Identify joint projects across the county: projects were identified by the stakeholders and the easiest to implement have had groups assigned to them. Funding proposals were created with ideas for regional cooperation and the development of amenities such as a canoe trail, rails to trails path, and enhancement of the Cahaba Trace driving tour. A product of the tourism planning is the Blocton Coke Ovens Park Master Plan, a plan for development of the capacity for the city park to host travel trailers and other amenities for tourism. This is just one element of one Town’s efforts to cultivate opportunities for a combination of “Eco- and Historical Tourism” that has the real possibility of bringing tourism dollars to this community and Bibb County.
- Get commitment and involvement of elected officials: state and local governmental representatives have been approached about the tourism initiative. A Federal “Ask plan” was developed with the Cahaba River Society and regional partners to take to Washington at Commissioners’ Day. Unfortunately, Bibb County’s Commission Chair, Al Green, was diagnosed with a throat cancer and had to have immediate hospital care. He is doing well and is still able to continue his wonderful speaking, but was unable to attend the congressional meeting. The ideas were not wasted though and were presented to US Representative, Spencer Bachus at a luncheon in Bibb County where he spoke, at a private meeting afterward.
OSM/VISTA Elizabeth Salter and CRS Biologist Randy Haddock took two congressional staffers out on a “C the River” Canoe trip, to experience the opportunities of ecotourism on the Cahaba, first hand.
- Strengthen ties to organizations outside Bibb County- the tourism partners have become over 50 organizations holding some role in this tourism planning effort, and are not limited to Bibb County alone, but to the entire region. In 2006/2007, regional meetings were held in Birmingham on the topic of ecotourism for the lands surrounding the Cahaba. A collaboration of federal, regional, collegiate, and nonprofit partners attended.
- Adopt projects and enhance and improve tourism amenities: some examples include the Blocton Coke Ovens Park Master Plan, the many cleanups that have been held in 2007, the billboard outside West Blocton, inviting drivers to “Come Visit Us”
- Increase legibility with maps, brochures, signage, website- beautiful signs have been installed on County Roads that welcome visitors to Bibb County with a large Cahaba Lily
Where are we? The DO phase
“These are critical years for small business/private business ownership.” – Nisa Miranda, Director University of Alabama Center for Economic Development
Now is the time to look at small business opportunities. It is time to get articles in the Paper on our progress: cleanups, plans, and major events. It is time for each of the tourism partners to adopt and further an aspect of the tourism plan. To this end, a tourism strategic committee of six influential community members has been established.
Many thanks to Ms. Nisa Miranda, without whom, none of this would be possible- and the source of most of the plan above. Nisa is continuing this project and is committed to seeing it through to fruition. She will be compiling a written tourism plan for the tourism partners to use in their future efforts when that point in the process is achieved. She has extensive experience bringing revitalization and economic growth to communities and is the Director of the University of Alabama’s Center for Economic Development. The Lower Cahaba Basin is lucky and proud to have Nisa Miranda spearheading these efforts.
OSM VISTA, Elizabeth Salter has been aiding the plans for tourism in Bibb County, throughout her tenure as our 2006/2007 Americorps VISTA. She has attended and helped with meetings, organizationally and logistically. She has worked with the tourism partners to take ownership and implement projects, and has helped with community involvement and support of tourism activities, most notably with the Blocton Coke Ovens Committee.