Mobile Baykeeper is a well-known environmental group along the Alabama Gulf Coast. Its mission is “to provide citizens a means to protect the beauty, health and heritage of the Mobile Bay Watershed and our coastal communities.”
As a nonprofit organization, Baykeeper depends on fundraisers and donations to support its efforts. The biggest event planned so far is the Publix Grandman Triathlon, set for its 13th running on June 3 in Fairhope.
“This is the perfect event for us,” Justine Herlihy, Baykeeper’s development director and this year’s race coordinator, said in an interview with Lagniappe. “All of the stages promote what we care about: clean air, clean water, clean communities.”
The race will begin as usual at the Fairhope Municipal Pier. Competitors will start jumping into Mobile Bay at 7 a.m. for the one-third of a mile swim to shore.
“To help alleviate congestion at the start of the race, we will let the triathletes jump off both finger piers for the first time,” Herlihy said. “Racers have had to stand on the pier for a long time in the past. This should help speed up the course.”
Following the swim, racers will bike for 18 miles, first through downtown Fairhope and then across the rolling countryside. The final event is a 3.1-mile run through the streets of downtown, ending back at Fairhope Park.
The Publix Grandman Triathlon is a Waterkeeper Alliance Splash Series Event presented nationally by Toyota. Registration is open to individuals and team racers.
Because of the race’s popularity, organizers have had to cut off registration at 800. Also taking part are approximately 150 volunteers while close to 1,000 spectators are expected.
Activities will begin that Friday with a health and fitness exposition at the pier from 4-7 p.m. A meeting for first-time competitors will take place at 6 p.m.
Baykeeper has dedicated charities it supports during the triathlon. Back for the second year is “myTeam Triumph: Southern Alabama.” This is an athletic ride-along program created for children, teens, adults and veterans with disabilities who would normally not be able to experience endurance events such as triathlons or road races. Volunteers assist those in need to complete each section of the course.
“It went great last year,” Herlihy said. “We expect at least three or four this year.”
Proceeds will also benefit another local nonprofit group, the Delta Bike Project. The exploits of the community bicycle shop dedicated to promoting and improving access to local bicycle transportation have been reported regularly in Lagniappe. The Delta Bike Project will also assist in the cycling section of the Grandman.
Putting on one of the biggest athletic events along Mobile Bay apparently was not enough for the Baykeeper staff. Starting this year, they are joining with a group of volunteers to host the Publix Jubilee Kids Triathlon that Sunday, June 4, at 7:30 a.m.
The race, presented by Altaworx and Eastern Shore Cycles, is open to ages 7 to 15 (as of Dec. 31, 2017). The starting point is again Fairhope Municipal Pier.
“For the past seven years, a core group of dedicated volunteers have helped make this event such a huge success,” said Casi Callaway, race director and executive director of Mobile Baykeeper. “Combining the two races under the same umbrella will be a great selling point for families looking to spend a weekend together in Fairhope.
“Fairhope is the perfect race destination for the whole family,” Callaway continued. “We really want to encourage parents to race in the Grandman on Saturday and then cheer on their children at the kids’ race on Sunday. These events are an important way to get people of all ages outside and expose them to the beautiful natural resources we have in Coastal Alabama.”
For Sunday’s race, participants will compete in two different waves according to age. Wave One — the Long Course Super Sprint — is open for children ages 11-15 and consists of a 200-yard swim, 3-mile bike and 1.75 mile run. Racers in this wave will compete in two different categories: Mullets (ages 13-15) and Flounders (ages 11-12).
Wave Two — the Short Course — is open for children ages 7-10 and consists of a 75-yard swim, 1-mile bike ride and 0.75 mile run. Racers in this wave will also compete in two different categories: Crabs (ages 9-10) and Shrimp (ages 7-8).
Herlihy said Fairhope’s new mayor, Karin Wilson, has competed in previous Grandman races and was one of the original supporters of the kids’ race. Her twin sister, Kelley, has also taken part in the Grandman.
To learn more about all the events, to register or to volunteer, visit www.thegrandman.com, send email to [email protected] or call 251-433-4229.
• Mobile’s Chris Blankenship has been appointed deputy commissioner of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR). For the previous six years, he has served as director of marine resources, a division of ADCNR. Blankenship is a graduate of the University of South Alabama, with a degree in criminal justice. He served as a marine resources enforcement officer before being named division director in 2011.
Blankenship, who will relocate to Montgomery with his wife, Allyson, said he expects to continue in his current roles as program administrator of the Alabama Seafood Marketing Commission, chairman of the Shellfish Aquaculture Review Board and chairman of the Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission.
• The University of Mobile’s cheerleading squad recently teamed up with One Meal. The group’s mission is to “provide nourishment for body and soul to the homeless and hungry of our community and to give hope and kindness to those in need of a kind word and a friend.” The food is served in the parking lot of St. Louis Street Missionary Baptist Church in downtown Mobile. On average, 150 meals are served every Sunday at 4 p.m.
This was the fourth service project for the cheerleaders, who previously have helped at Saraland Elementary School, USA Children’s & Women’s Hospital and Baptist Children’s Home.