First week of 2017 gator hunt in the books

Unofficial 2017 West Central Alabama River Alligator Hunt Results – Week 1
Night 1 – 08/10/17:
01 – Janet Holt (Tallassee) – 7’ 9”, 109 lbs., M
02 – Wilford Holt (Tallassee) – 9’ 2”, 216 lbs., M
03 – Sam Scott (Monroeville) – 8’ 1”, 122 lbs., M
04 – Patrick Stabler (Frisco City) – 12’ 7”, 607 lbs., M
Night 2 – 08/11/17
05 – Brent Hatcher (Wetumpka) – 8’ 2.5”, 131.5 lbs., F
06 – Jeremy Guthrie (Ohatchee) – 8’ 6”, 152 lbs., M
07 – Brad Reaves (Ohatchee) – 7’ 3”, 86.5 lbs.
Night 3 – 08/12/17
08 – Lewis Prince (Childersburg) – 7’ 9”, 126 lbs., F
09 – Rex Jones (Selma) – 7’ 7”, 93 lbs., M
10 – Ashley Sparks (Decatur) – 6’ 9”, 61.5 lbs., M
11 – Sterling Brothers (Alexander City) – 8’ 11”, 175.5 lbs., M
12 – Brad Kelly (Thorsby) – 8’ 4”, 129.5 lbs., M

From left, Patrick Stabler (Tag holder, Frisco City), J.T. Dailey (Camden), and Craig Gamble (Camden) with week one big gator they caught around Chilatchee Creek on the Alabama River. The gator was 12′ 7″, 607 pounds. (WAW | James Lawler)

Public Invited to Tour New Roland Cooper Cabins on March 11

Each cabin features a fire pit, grill and attached deck. (WAW | Contributed)

Roland Cooper State Park near Camden, Ala., will hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Saturday, March 11, 2017, to celebrate four new cabins recently installed in the park’s main campground. The ribbon-cutting ceremony will take place during the Second Saturday in the Park Music Series, which features local musicians, family fun and a cabin open house. The event is free and runs from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The new cabins were built by Alabama’s Rustic River Park Homes and feature two bedrooms, one full bath, kitchen, living room and dining area. Each cabin also offers a gas range, central heat and air conditioning, a fire pit, grill and attached deck. One of the four cabins is Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessible.

“The new cabins are beautifully built and offer the comfort of home in the peaceful, natural setting of Roland Cooper State Park,” said Kelly Ezell, Oak Mountain State Park Superintendent and Central Alabama State Parks District Superintendent. “Alabama State Parks is proud to partner with Recreation Resource Management to offer this overnight option at Roland Cooper.”

In addition to the newly installed cabins, Roland Cooper State Park features RV and primitive camping, cabins, pavilions, fishing and boating. The park is also a stop on the Alabama Bass Trail and a weigh-in station for the state regulated alligator hunts.

Each kitchen has a gas range, microwave and coffee maker. (WAW | Contributed)

For more information about the park or to make cabin or camping reservations, call 334-682-4838 or visit

The Alabama State Parks Division relies on visitor fees and the support of other partners like local communities to fund the majority of their operations. To learn more about Alabama State Parks,

DRA awards local grants

The CIty of Camden was awarded a $200,000 grant for improvements at Bridgeport Landing, seen here on Thursday, Dec. 8. (WAW | Carl Jackson)

The CIty of Camden was awarded a $200,000 grant for improvements at Bridgeport Landing, seen here on Thursday, Dec. 8. (WAW | Carl Jackson)

MONTGOMERY, Ala.—The Delta Regional Authority (DRA), together with its federal and locally-based partners, announced more than $4 million in new investments aimed at strengthening Alabama’s infrastructure, workforce, and economy on Tuesday.

Specifically, the new investments, including more than $1 million in direct DRA resources, will help create a new entrepreneurial support center in Dallas County and improve the roads and water infrastructure in Hurtsboro, Moldwood near York, and Fulton, as well as support tourism around Selma’s role in the Civil Rights movement.

Locally, Camden and York received a total of $432,008. Camden was awarded $200,000 to upgrade Bridgeport Landing, which provides access to the William ‘Bill’ Dannelly Reservoir on the Alabama River (also known as Millers Ferry). The area has been the site of large fishing tournaments which have played a vital role in Camden’s economy in the past.

“We appreciate the DRA’s investment in our area,” said Camden Mayor Phil Creswell. “In addition to the $200,000 granted by the Delta Regional Authority, we also have another $200,000 coming from another agency that will actually provide us with $400,000 to put towards the Bridgeport project this year, and we hope to have another $600,000 for next year.”

Phase I of Camden’s Bridgeport project was planned with an estimated budget of $500,000, so Creswell said some of the Phase I goals may have to be rolled over into Phase II.

“Phase I was planned through community meetings and we really took to heart what our local community felt we needed at Bridgeport. Phase I is planned to include expanding parking to 175 truck and trailer spaces, replacing the split boat launch and with a more open launch that will double the capacity to four boats at a time, adding some T-docks, a pavilion, and bathrooms facilities on the water,” said Creswell.

“Of course, we may have to cut back a little bit since we’re about $100,000 short on funds for Phase I, so we may cut back the parking or something like that to stay within budget.”

James Lawler, long-time supporter of the outdoors in Wilcox County and host of the weekly Gettin’ Outdoors with Big Daddy Lawler radio show, said he’s encouraged by the DRA’s decision to invest in such an impactful project for the area.

“Although I am disappointed in the amount, I am very encouraged that the DRA is investing in a very cost-effective project. The economic impact our lake [Millers Ferry] has on Wilcox County is as constant as any brick and mortar industry in the Alabama Black Belt,” said Lawler.

Creswell said he hopes to break ground on the project by June or July of 2017.

“We’ve still got a lot of work ahead of us like engineering and such, but we’ve been told that our funds will be available about mid-year, and we want to get started as soon as possible,” said Creswell.

The City of York received $232,008 to replace the current Moldwood wet well/dry well lift station located on Mallard Drive. The project will replace the station with a new duplex submersible station, benefitting around 100 residents by reducing safety and health risks associated with the old station.

York Mayor Gena Robbins said that having the DRA’s commitment to a small, rural community like York allows the city to provide the highest quality of life for it’s residents even while facing limited resources.

“In a city like York, a $232,000 grant is just huge. Don’t get me wrong, that’s a lot of money for any city, but for a rural Black Belt town like York, this is a dream come true,” said Robbins.

The Moldwood lift station is at the site of the old moldwood plant in York, and despite the plant no longer being active, the site is still an industrial park that the city is trying to attract industry to.

“This grant is advantageous for three reasons,” said Robbins. “One, there are 100-plus residents who live near this station and rely on it for wastewater treatment. Two, this station is in an industrial park that we are actively trying to bring industry to, and three, this station is the last old-style station left in our town, so replacing it with the new station will afford us both a new safety level and reduce the maintenance costs associated with the older, outdated station.”

“We are proud to have the Delta Regional Authority as such a strong partner in our Black Belt Region,” said Alabama Governor Robert Bentley.

“These grants will be used for a variety of projects that will improve infrastructure, promote economic development and provide basic services to many of our West Alabama counties. We look forward to a continued strong partnership with the DRA, for many years to come.”

Terri Sewell, U.S Representative for Alabama’s 7th Congressional District said she is thankful for the DRA’s partnership.

“As the representative for Alabama’s 7th Congressional District, creating opportunities that produce quality jobs for the constituents of the district is my number one priority.  Throughout my time in office, Chairman Masingill and the Delta Regional Authority has been a stalwart ally in facilitating critical new investments in the Black Belt region, and I am tremendously grateful for this partnership,” said Sewell.

“Including more than $1 million in direct DRA resources, these latest investments will not only strengthen Alabama’s infrastructure and workforce development efforts, but will also expand tourism around Selma’s role in the Civil Rights movement through the investment in the Selma Interpretive Center. These types of federal-state partnerships are key to the continued growth and development of our region.”

A complete list of the DRA’s economic investments statewide is below:

1. DALLAS COUNTY: Support Entrepreneurship & Innovation Center. DRA Investment: $100,000. Total Investment: $310,000. This project will recruit and develop entrepreneurial businesses that want to locate to the region.  The center will be a space where these businesses can develop into healthy companies in 2 – 3 years. The center anticipates launching 10 new companies within 3 years and creating 20 full time and part time jobs within that time frame.

2. SELMA: Expand Selma Interpretive Center. DRA Investment: $100,000. Total Investment: $1,420,000. The City of Selma in conjunction with the National Park Service is working on the expansion of the Selma Interpretive Center, which focuses on educating individuals regarding the Civil Rights Movement.

3. STATEWIDE: Drive Workforce Development Initiatives. DRA Investment: $73,696. Total Investment: $73,696. This project will align regional workforce development initiatives with a local employer’s workforce training program to provide jobs to regional workers and improve workforce competitiveness. The initiative will provide soft and technical skills to workers as well as market the program regionally. Ultimately, the Aluminum Structural Welder Program will lead to 40 jobs at Austal.

4. CLARKE COUNTY: Rehabilitate Regional Workforce Training Center. DRA Investment: $105,000. Total Investment: $537,125. The Clarke County School District will rehabilitate an existing armory for use as a Workforce Training Center. The center will train approximately 200 students annually.

5. FULTON: Improve Access to Industrial Area. DRA Investment: $94,191. Total Investment: $958,566. The Town of Fulton will use resources to cover industrial access engineering costs not covered by the state. The project will eliminate a major safety hazard.

6. MOLDWOOD: Replace Lift Station. DRA Investment: $232,008. Total Investment: $232,008. The replacement of the Moldwood lift station, which serves low-income residents in the City of York, will benefit approximately 100 citizens.  By replacing the existing sanitary sewer wet well/dry well lift station with a new duplex submersible lift station, the safety and health risks associated with the old design can be significantly reduced.

7. HURTSBORO: Improvements to Streets and Water Drainage. DRA Investment: $25,000. Total Investment: $331,000. Hurtsboro will improve five deteriorating streets, including one that is part of the truck route through town, reduce storm water inflow and infiltration of the sewer system, and mitigate flooding.

8. CAMDEN: Upgrade Bridgeport Landing. DRA Investment: $200,000. Total Investment: $200,000. The City of Camden will upgrade the Bridgeport Landing Park, which is used for large fishing tournaments and support a thriving tourism industry.

9. BUTLER COUNTY: Improvement to Two Roads. DRA Investment: $155,500. Total Investment: $331,429.The project will improve two substandard roads in Butler County, including fixing overlying patches, potholes, cracks, and depressions.

DRA leadership works closely with the Governor of each state and his board designee to identify projects to receive economic development investments, all of which are aligned with state development goals.

About the Delta Regional Authority

The Delta Regional Authority is a federal-state partnership created by Congress in 2000 to help create jobs, build communities, and improve lives through strategic investments in economic development in 252 counties and parishes across eight states. To date, the DRA’s SEDAP investments, together with its state and local partners, have leveraged $138 million in federal resources into more than $2.9 billion in public and private investment into local small business owners, entrepreneurs, workers, and infrastructure development projects. These investments have helped create or retain more than 26,000 jobs since the DRA was established. Learn more at

Alabama State Parks accepting bids for operation of Camden’s Roland Cooper

The Alabama State Parks Division is currently accepting bids for the operation, by concession contract, of all or a portion of park operations at Roland Cooper State Park in Camden, Ala. Interested vendors are encouraged to submit bids by 5 p.m. on Thursday, June 23, 2016.

The bids will be publicly opened the following day at 2 p.m. Vendors interested in submitting a bid for all or a portion of the park’s operations must contact Toni Hart at or call (334) 242-3334 to receive a bid packet.

Roland Cooper State Park features camping, cabins, pavilions, fishing and boating. The park is also a stop on the Alabama Bass Trail and a weigh-in station for the state regulated alligator hunts. Additionally, Roland Cooper is home to the nine-hole Deer Haven Golf Club. For more information about the park, visit

The Alabama State Parks Division relies on visitor fees and the support of other partners like local communities to fund the majority of their operations. To learn more, visit

Tears and Laughter: Life in such a place as Wilcox County

I was in Thomasville one afternoon last week and saw an old friend who asked me how in the world I can stand to live over here in such a place as Wilcox County. She said she just does not understand it, that she has a son who lives over here too and he just loves it – loves it so much he is considering buying a place in Coy, but for herself she just could not tolerate it.

She thinks Wilcox County is backwards and appears trapped in 1973. And it is not as if I could disagree with her too strongly, all things considered. We are, as a county, what failed leadership looks like.

Self-proclaimed leaders can’t profess to be setting an example for the community, while at the same time breaking the law. At some point the right to efficiently lead is forfeited. Real leaders think and have some degree of wisdom. They don’t react emotionally or consider themselves above the law.

Wilcox County has been stalled economically for over 30 years. Downtown Camden reflects this stagnation. If you don’t know anything any different though, you will not know to even notice.

School enrollment, in both the public and private school systems, show the decline in the county’s population.

Granted there were several characters from the past that helped bring us to where we are today in Wilcox County, whether they were legends, fakes, or fools. And their spirits still linger, but only in stories at high noon and shadows in the night. Their examples may have helped paved the way, but the current train wreck of leadership continues to follow suit by their own choosing. No reputable business or industry is going to locate in a place where “leaders” attempt to initiate boycotts against other local businesses. An outlaw or two might move here, but no families.

Most people who live here do not care how the county government operates because they assume it is above a certain level of competency. Average people from normal places have never seen anywhere that operates quite like Wilcox County, and as a result we are used to being the last in all that is good and leading in all that is bad, in a state that mirrors the same pattern nationally.

But from where I write this today, with the air conditioning pumping, I have a window opened just enough to let in the sounds of the South.

I can hear what seems to be a multitude of different birds chirping and singing and calling to one another. They will do this, hidden away within the canopy of trees that pretty much stretches countywide, from just before daybreak until twilight, when a symphony of frogs, crickets, and whippoorwills takes the stage.

There is a calm that exists that people both of here and not can feel when they cross the river. It is another world. Similar in ways I suppose to crossing the salt line down in Mobile. We too seem to live closer to the Caribbean than Montgomery. Attitudes are more relaxed. Both the climate and culture are different. Most days unfold like a Friday, and ice takes its sweet time melting in glasses of tea. And that is why people come here I guess…and also why we stay.

Amanda Walker is a columnist with The West Alabama Watchman,, The Thomasville Times, and The Wilcox Progressive Era. For more information, visit her on Facebook at

Tears and Laughter: Down by the river

A Millers Ferry sunset on the Alabama River. (Photo by Amanda Walker)

A Millers Ferry sunset on the Alabama River. (Photos by Amanda Walker)

It was after dark, with just a sliver of an October moon glowing. The water was black, except for the reflection of a distant boat light shimmering.

There is power in a river. Its strong, continual current seems to have a healing property to it. Something restorative. It carries away thoughts, leaving behind a melancholy that has been written about since the South began.

The river used to be the main road. It was the highway. It made us and marred us I always say. It brought people to the fertile Black Belt soil, and it carried cotton away to the rest of the country.

Everything else it seems – roads, old homes that were built, each community that developed – came out from the river.

That is how Camden became the county seat. The first courthouse in Canton Bend kept flooding because it was too close to the river. It was the same reason neighboring Prairie Bluff became a watery grave of a ghost town.

That was a long time ago though, before the turn of the last century. Long before so much of the county’s economy became propped-up by grants from the government and too many of its residents became dependent upon federal assistance.

Now only remnants remain of what used to be. There were a couple of columns left from the old courthouse in Canton Bend. I don’t know if they are even still standing. But Prairie Ridge still haunts, from beneath the shallow waters.

Some people claim the river is magic, that it draws them in. It calls to them they say. Just to be near it the sparkling Alabamamakes them feel like they are on the edge of something extraordinary happening. They believe it is a portal to some other time. Another dimension they can escape into. They say there are different universes entirely between the fog rising at the first tranquil light of morning and the black reflecting quiet of night.

Other places may have their charms, their beauty. But Wilcox County is seductive. It will trick outsiders into thinking it is something it is not. Then quickly it reveals itself to be too untamed for them to stay, yet too real for them to easily leave.

After they are gone, it stays with them in glimpses and pieces. In voices that echo and repeat in their minds. Its spirit clings to them, like it holds to the land.

That is true all across the South I guess. Here it is just still untouched enough you can feel it riding with you while driving down roads that turn from pavement to dirt and lead back to the river.

Almost every single aspect of life here – from the way we talk, and the way we cook, to our deeply held religious beliefs – stems from two races evolving up from the banks of the Alabama River.

It is what we hold in common.

We are left keepers of a place those who loved it before us seem to want to return to and visit, if only in a memory. Or maybe they never leave at all…at least in hints and shimmers.

Amanda Walker is a columnist with The West Alabama Watchman,, The Thomasville Times, and The Wilcox Progressive Era. For more information, visit her on Facebook at

Potential world record gator taken near Millers Ferry

Photos submitted by Kristi Stokes

Photos submitted by Kristi Stokes

A 15-foot alligator weighing 1,011.5 pounds was taken by Thomaston resident Mandy Stokes Friday night/Saturday morning near Millers Ferry in Wilcox County. It is believed to be a potential world-record legally harvested alligator. According to a family member, the gator tops the Alabama record Fancher alligator, taken in 2011. That alligator was 14-foot, 2 inches and weighed 838 pounds. Shown above from left are John Stokes, Mandy Stokes, Savannah Jenkins, Kevin Jenkins, and Parker Jenkins. In the middle photo is Mandy Stokes and her neice, Savannah.