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Alabama planning scenic byways program

By By Steve Gillespie/The Meridian Star
Sept. 24, 2001
Alabama hopes to bolster rural economic development by creating a statewide scenic byways program that would lure more tourists to the state.
Dan Brothers, staff photographer for the Alabama Bureau of Tourism and Travel, said the scenic byways program is still in its developmental stages. But, he said, the state is learning everything it can from similar programs throughout the nation.
Brothers met last week with The Meridian Star editorial board. He talked about efforts to draw more visitors to the entire state as well as the West Alabama counties of Choctaw, Sumter and Marengo.
Tourism helps state economy
Brothers said tourism will never replace forestry in West Alabama. But, he said, he believes an increase in tourism could help boost the state and local economy.
Brothers said that other states with scenic byways attract many retirees, including those with recreational vehicles. That, he said, is an encouraging sign for developing an Alabama program.
Brothers also said that many families are now starting to favor two- and three-day trips rather than long vacations. He said people find the shorter trips easier to work into busy schedules.
Brothers also has noticed another trend: The purchase of hunting and fishing licenses nationwide have been declining by about 1 percent each year for several years.
State may consider fees
If hunting and fishing licenses continue to decline, Brothers said, Alabama may have to consider user fees for what other states call "nonconsumptive" use of wildlife such as fees for using improved hiking or bird-watching trails.
Brothers said that he and others in Alabama see the scenic byways program as something different that could renew interest in the state.
He said a successful scenic byways program must have scenic, recreational, cultural and historic elements. On his way to Meridian, he found such a location near Epps, Ala. where he saw chalk cliffs he had never seen before.
When he got to the top of the cliffs to take some pictures, he made another discovery: A stone marker dated 1915 marked the location of Fort Tombigbee, which was established in the early 1700s.
Steve Gillespie is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. Call him at 693-1551, ext. 3233, or e-mail him at sgillespie@themeridianstar.com.

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