What have you been missing in the Delta?
By RUSSELL LADD
and ROBERTA SWANN
It is one thing to hear about the Mobile-Tensaw River Delta, with its 600 species of animals and dozens upon dozens of swamps, rivers, creeks, bayous, marshes and patches of wetlands. It is another thing entirely to actually see the delta up close – to fish its waters, paddle its streams and tramp through its forests.
That is why individuals, businesses, civic leaders and advocacy groups have joined forces to create the Alabama Delta Alliance: to introduce local residents and travelers alike to the beauty of our delta. Sadly, while some folks in Alabama have grown up living, working and playing in it, far too many people in the region haven’t been inside the Mobile-Tensaw River Delta.
Our mission is to change that dynamic.
We have begun by creating a website (www.alabamadelta.com) that explains what and where the Mobile-Tensaw River Delta is, describes its rich history and incredible diversity, and tells people how they can experience it. The heart of the website is an interactive map that details the various public access points up and down the delta — from boat launches and fishing piers to wildlife refuges and historic sites — with specific details about each, including addresses and descriptions of facilities.
In the short term, we hope the website will spark people’s interest in taking a boat tour, fishing excursion, kayak trip or hike into the delta, whether individually or with friends. For those who don’t know where to start, we recommend signing up with one of several tour boat companies whose knowledgeable guides regularly take groups into the delta. People can check with Five Rivers Delta Resource Center (251-625-9814) for more information.
From there, people can decide for themselves what’s the next step in getting to know the delta’s beauty, its resources and its surprises. Our long-term goal is for them to understand that this is their delta, that it offers innumerable activities, and that it deserves our respect and our attention.
Also at www.alabamadelta.com, we invite people to join the Alliance. There are no dues or membership fees to join; all we’re asking is for people to embrace this vast and beautiful natural resource so that it can continue to be available for years to come. We’ll keep Alliance members up-to-date on projects, progress and initiatives that affect the delta.
Additionally, we’ll continue to grow our partnerships with agencies under the umbrella of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources that oversee many of the delta’s resources (including Five Rivers Delta Resource Center, the Marine Resources Division, State Lands Division and State Parks Division) plus the Coastal Alabama Partnership, Mobile Bay National Estuary Program, Dauphin Island Sea Lab and other advocacy groups, businesses, individuals and civic leaders who are passionate about promoting and protecting the delta.
In the meantime, we’ll be expanding our website’s map, adding more launches, piers, facilities and public access points. Indeed, we encourage people to visit the site and click on “Get Engaged” to suggest locations they believe should be added to the map.
At the press conference where we revealed the creation of the Alliance, a steering committee member observed that the Mobile-Tensaw River Delta boasts an unusual amount of accessibility. In fact, people in southwest Alabama drive across its southern entrance daily via Interstate 10, and numerous towns and communities abut its shores.
Through education and old-fashioned word-of-mouth, our goal is to lure people out of their homes, cars and RVs and up into the delta, where they will see what they’ve been missing. In the process, we believe they’ll come to understand the full meaning of our Alliance’s slogan: “See the Delta. Explore the Delta. Know the Delta.”
(Russell Ladd is a native of Mobile and a member of the Alabama Delta Alliance steering committee. Roberta Swann is director of the Mobile Bay National Estuary Program and also a member of the alliance’s steering committee.)