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Fisherman at Ingalls Harbor during last November's FLW Stren Series Championship fishing tournament. It's not as if they had nowhere to go, but the facilities weren't of a permanent nature.
Daily file photo by Jonathan Palmer
Fisherman at Ingalls Harbor during last November's FLW Stren Series Championship fishing tournament. It's not as if they had nowhere to go, but the facilities weren't of a permanent nature.

Flush at Ingalls Harbor
Visitors bureau seeks to improve amenities at riverfront facility

By Catherine Godbey
cgodbey@decaturdaily.com 340-2441

Have you ever been thankful to see a porta-potty? At Ingalls Harbor, where no restroom facilities exist, porta-potties are welcomed sights.

If the Decatur-Morgan County Convention and Visitors Bureau is successful, these welcomed sights will become endangered objects.

In April, Tami Reist, president of the Visitors Bureau, traveled to Washington, D.C., to seek funding for Ingalls Harbor. Reist's to-do list included visits with U.S. Reps. Bud Cramer, D-Huntsville, and Robert Aderholt, R-Haleyville, and Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Tuscaloosa.

The funding, if awarded, will finance the construction of
restrooms, an educational museum and a riverboat docking facility.

"Now that Phase 1 is complete, we are looking to the future," said Reist. "We asked each congressman for a million dollars to complete the project."

The project to transform Ingalls Ship Building to Ingalls Harbor began in 2005. Phase 1 included the construction of a boat launch, which transformed the harbor into a popular fishing site for major tournaments.

In 2006, Ingalls Harbor hosted three major events, which generated more than $1 million for Decatur. The Wal-Mart FLW fishing tournament alone brought in more than $830,000.

Decatur can expect to see an increased economic impact from Ingalls Harbor. The harbor has secured eight major fishing tournaments for the fiscal year 2008. One will be televised on ESPN.

Reist believes the educational museum and riverboat docking facility planned for Phase 2 will complement the boat launch and increase the effect Ingalls Harbor has on Decatur's economy.

When built, the Tennessee River Heritage Museum will be a tourist attraction and an educational tool. Reist said the museum will focus on the history of the Tennessee River and the surrounding area. A timeline of the river will let visitors explore the river's past while telescopes offer glimpses of the river's present.

Another feature included in the development is a riverboat docking facility. This facility would let the Delta Queen and Mississippi Queen, which dock at Rhodes Ferry Park, steam into the harbor.

Reist envisions Decatur using the dock to anchor its own riverboat someday. The riverboat would be a tourist attraction and a conference center, catering to both visitors and businesses.

Along with a museum and docking facility, the visitors bureau plans to use federal assistance to build restrooms. In March, the City Council budgeted $125,000 to build
restrooms at the harbor.

Reist said she is thankful for the allotment of money, but is seeking further assistance to build restrooms that fit into the Ingalls Harbor master plan.

Jeff Dunlap, director of Decatur Parks and Recreation, said the construction of the city-financed restrooms will begin once building specifications are complete, a builder is chosen, and the City Council approves. Schoel Godwin Barnett, an architectural firm, is handling the building specifications. An architect with Schoel Godwin Barnett, John Godwin, said building specifications should be complete within the next couple of weeks. Godwin estimated that once construction begins the restrooms should be completed in six months.

As the city makes steps to begin construction, the visitors bureau waits. The bureau expects to find out in early 2008 if Congress appropriated grants for the harbor. If federal assistance is awarded, construction will begin immediately.

Until then, don't expect the visitors bureau to sit back and wait. In 2001, the Decatur-Morgan County Hospitality Association self-imposed a $1.50 hotel room occupancy fee. The funds collected from this fee support tourism product development. If financial assistance is not awarded, Reist plans to use a portion of the hotel occupancy tax to build restrooms and pavilions at the harbor.

"We are not asking for a handout," said Reist. "Construction would just move a lot faster if we receive the grants."

With the aid of grants, the visitors bureau foresees the completion of Ingalls Harbor in 2010.

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