Five Rivers hosts grand opening

By Jay Hasting
Staff Writer
Posted 4/19/07

The Five Rivers Alabama Delta Resource Center is officially open. The Alabama Department of Conservation, Lands Division, Alabama Tourism and NOAA took part in cutting the ribbon on the gateway to the Mobile-Tensaw River Delta last Friday.

The …

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Five Rivers hosts grand opening

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The Five Rivers Alabama Delta Resource Center is officially open. The Alabama Department of Conservation, Lands Division, Alabama Tourism and NOAA took part in cutting the ribbon on the gateway to the Mobile-Tensaw River Delta last Friday.

The 235,000-acre Delta is the second largest one in the United States—trailing only the Mississippi River Delta.

But as Alabama Conservation Commissioner Barnett Lawley stated during the ribbon cutting ceremony, “Nobody has a facility like this one.”

Lawley stood on one of the wrap-around porches at the new facility and explained, “We started a program four years ago to promote our natural resources, to teach people to enjoy what we have to educate them to take our young kids and teach them how to be good stewards and enjoy the resources. Everything we try to do throughout the department is here at Five Rivers. You can kayak, you can learn from the natural history. You can just sit and look at the beautiful delta.”

The facility includes classrooms that are fully-equipped and designed to accommodate students from K through 12.

“It is a great place to have a meeting,” Lawley said. “We think we have something here for everybody.”

During the ribbon-cutting ceremony, the center portion of the facility, The Delta Hall, was named to honor Lands Division Director Jim Griggs. Lawley praised Griggs for his dedication to the project. “Jim has been with the Department for 19 years and nobody deserves this honor more.”

Griggs was obviously surprised by the announcement, “I am overwhelmed and honored.”

He was quick to turn the praise to the employees of the Lands Division, “They worked really hard,” Griggs said. These are people that are committed and impassioned about what they do. I am just so proud of all of them. They are the ones that made this happen.”

Griggs reflected on the beginning of the project, “This was a rough piece of ground. It has turned out to be pretty—I think the prettiest sight I have seen in my life. One night there was a full moon here about 9 o’clock coming up across the Blakeley River and it was almost a religious experience.”

Lee Sentell, Alabama Tourism and Travel Director said, “We have something now they are not going to believe.” Sentell encouraged local residents to share the facility with their friends and family that come to visit the area. “You now have a great destination in your back yard. When you have friends and relatives who think they have seen the area, no, they have not seen it all.”

Timothy Keeney, the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Oceans and Atmosphere, NOAA, Department of Commerce, one of the partners in the development, said he believes the facility will mean a lot, for the people of Alabama and the entire nation. “Because of what it opens up to the country and to all visitors in regards to the great conservation lands you have here.” “It means that people in this state have their priorities straight with regards to the need for conservation, education and stewardship all of which are represented by this new facility.”

Funding for the 10 million dollar facility was split between federal sources and State Lands Division funds. Keeney said, “Almost nine million dollars in state funds and revenues have supported the construction of this project. Another one million dollars in federal money has been allocated to support the construction of walking trails, public boat dock, canoe and kayak piers, and educations kiosks.”

The Resource Center also includes The Apalachee Hall, a four thousand square foot environmental education exhibit hall. It features exhibits highlighting the wildlife that has and still exists in the Delta area. The focal point of the exhibit includes a large American Bison which once roamed South Alabama but disappeared in the 1800’s and a wild boar, nicknamed “Hogzilla.” The Hall also features animals that currently live or once lived in the delta including the black bear, fox, and deer.

The Hall flanks the grand reception hall called the Delta Hall. It includes meeting space, an exhibit area, a kitchen facility, screened in outdoor deck area and a powerboat dock. The facility also includes a 90-seat surround sound theater called the Tensaw Theater as well as a gift shop, a four thousand square foot modular classroom and workshop facility named for the Blakeley River as well as offices for the State Lands Division.

The Five Rivers Resources Center is located on the Causeway across from the Meaher State Park.