Public water recreation access is expanding in Mobile County… through the Bureau of Land Management (BLM)?
BLM announced last week, June 9, it has acquired 5.1 acres of land off Rebel Road in Theodore to provide a new public boat launch for fishing, boating and kayaking in the Fowl River Watershed. The land also opens up roadway access to 40 acres of conservation land which features a network of nature trails.
BLM Southeastern Deputy District Manager Shayne Banks told Lagniappe BLM’s land ownership in the South is scarce and its Fowl River Access Site will be a unique endeavor for the agency. She said recreational projects are uncommon ventures for BLM in the Eastern U.S. BLM owns Fort Morgan in Baldwin County and some sites along the Coosa River.
BLM is an agency within the U.S. Department of the Interior responsible for administering 245 million acres of federal lands located primarily in the Western U.S. BLM’s Southeastern States Office manages 10,000 acres of scattered tracts across 11 states.
BLM land ownership typically dates back to the 19th century and have been previously coined “land nobody wants.” though the agency now oversees conservation projects and land permits for natural resources.
Waterway access and recreation have been a focus for the Mobile County Commission for the last several years and a number of projects are in the works to expand its Blueway Kayak Trail.
District 3 Commissioner Randall Dueitt said he was notified by BLM about the acquisition last month but wasn’t able to attend a ribbon-cutting ceremony held June 9.
Dueitt said he was unaware the bureau owned land on the watershed and the plans for recreational access were unexpected. He said he would be open to partnering with the agency to include the site in its kayak trail project.
According to land deed records, BLM acquired the Rebel Road Estates plat in May for a purchase price of $300,000, which was paid for through the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
The plat is located on Rebel Court, a 500-foot street that branches off of Rebel Road just north of the East Fowl River Bridge and ends in a cul de sac. A dirt road stretches south from the end of the road down to the East Fowl River, which merges with West Fowl River half a mile downstream. West Fowl River is a seven-mile waterway that ends in the Mississippi Sound. It branches off of Fowl River at its southern-most point, two miles upstream from where it empties into the Mobile Bay.
The Mobile County Commission is planning a public boat launch at the mouth of Fowl River. However, official planning and design for the project have yet to be approved. The two projects are located substantially apart and are oriented in different directions.
According to local river advocate and aerial photographer Sam St. John, the access point will be a strategic addition to the river and is located in a spot where kayaks and small watercraft will be able to explore undeveloped portions of the Fowl River tributary.
“People normally want to put launches in the wrong spots, but this is perfect,” St. John said, who was unaware of the project until he was asked about it. He said he is familiar with the Rebel Road conservation land and believes it was owned by a native American tribe previously.
St. John noted there are limited launch points on the river for those without access to private land. He said kayakers, paddleboarders and boats only can access the watershed from Memories Fishing Camp off Fowl River Road, The Pelican Reef ramp near Dauphin Island Parkway and DeltaPoint Marina off of the Alabama Coastal Connection scenic byway.
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