Let’s get on with it, Governor

Published 12:05 am Saturday, March 29, 2014

I read with interest Gov. Bentley’s recent remarks that the State of Alabama needs to rebuild a convention center and lodge at Gulf State Park in Gulf Shores. I heartily agree—let’s get on with it, Governor. Our Alabama State Parks are truly a treasure and Gulf State Park is one of the most beautiful. It rates among my favorite Alabama State Parks, along with Tannehill Historic State Park in McCalla, near Tuscaloosa. Tannehill’s attraction is its rustic atmosphere where the site of the ruins of an old Civil War furnace nestles in the woods.

Both parks had great restaurants as part of their amenities.

I have fond memories of the Gulf Shores facility destroyed by Hurricane Ivan in 2004. The convention center restaurant was one of my favorites. The food was an attraction, of course, but the scenery really captivated me. Closing my eyes even today, I can visualize the picture windows with a panoramic view of sugar white sand and the waves rolling in on the Gulf of Mexico. There was something so tranquil about the scene. I loved sitting close to the windows so I could watch pelicans swooping close to the water or glimpse little birds with legs bent backward racing on the beach next to the water. Sometimes we dined there with family when they visited the area. We ate at the restaurant often when we stayed at the campground for several days’ vacation. A meal at the restaurant after church on Sundays was a special treat.

My husband and I noticed a Tannehill Historic State Park sign one day returning home from Tuscaloosa. We were in the market for an RV, so we decided to visit the park to look over the campground. As soon as we approached the entrance, we saw the Furnace Master’s Restaurant, a rustic log building with a long porch, where several big, wooden rocking chairs sat. We entered the building after crossing a footbridge over one of the creeks that run through the park. Inside a fire crackled in the fireplace. It was cozy and warm on that cold February day. Soon, we were warming our hands by curling them around cups of steaming soup we had just been served.

We met Southern Appalachian Dulcimer Association members there and returned with our RV for the dulcimer festival every spring. Sometimes I sat in a rocker on the porch, watching and listening to the water rush over the rocks in the creek. On hot days, we bought ice cream cones from a back window at the restaurant. We often enjoyed meals at the restaurant. It was a sad day when Furnace Masters burned in 1999. Five years later a new building went up; not rustic, not facing the creek. As far as I know, it does not operate today.

No convention center at Gulf Shores—no Furnace Master’s Restaurant operating at Tannehill. What a loss for the people of Alabama and those who visit our beautiful state.