Marine police, rescue squad have new home
By Paul Huggins Staff Writer from The Decatur Daily
Morgan County Rescue Squad president Tony Weikert, second from right, with the squad’s newest boat following the dedication of a new building near Ingalls Harbor on Tuesday. With him is Decatur Mayor Don Stanford.
It was like catching two fish on one hook Tuesday at Ingalls Harbor.
The city unveiled a plaque naming the boat launch for David Parks, whom tourism officials credit with starting the Ingalls project that has drawn major fishing tournaments.
Immediately afterward, the city presented the floating dock, which will be home base for both the Morgan County Rescue Squad and the Alabama Marine Police.
Tami Reist, president of the Morgan County Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the boat ramp and the floating dock go hand-in-hand with helping the city continue to attract lucrative fishing tournaments.
One of the first questions tournament organizers ask is proximity to marine police and rescue operations, she said, and now the city can tell them safety patrols are within a few hundred yards of where the boats launch.
The floating dock can hold three boats. It will have power lifts to keep the boats out of the water so both groups can spend less time keeping the hulls clean.
“For me, it’s just great to have a place where you can hang a sign,” said Alabama Marine Police officer Larry Adams.
Previously, the marine police kept its boat tied at Brickyard Landing, and three days of the week it was out of the water.
Adams said the marine police will have quicker response times and can make more patrols, but the greatest benefit is being connected with the Rescue Squad.
“Much of the time, we’re called out together,” he said. “It makes a huge difference to be able to coordinate everything face to face.”
The Rescue Squad had called Riverwalk Marina its home base. It will continue to keep a boat there.
Tony Weikert, Rescue Squad president, said that on past occasions, vehicle wrecks blocked traffic on Hudson Memorial Bridge and prevented the squad from deploying quickly. That will never be an issue again, he said.
The Decatur City Council, Morgan County Commission, state Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, and state Rep. Mickey Hammon, R-Decatur, provided the taxpayer-generated funds to build the $102,000 facility.
Decatur Utilities gave permission for the floating dock to locate on its property next to Ingalls.
It is a former DU general manager, Parks, whose name now adorns a plaque next to the boat launch.
Tourism officials said Parks was the individual with the initial determination to develop a world-class boat launching facility.
They said he did everything from scouting out locations for the harbor to helping architects design it to exceed tournament organizers’ expectations.
Wade Weaver, visitors bureau board treasurer, said Parks “stood above the crowd” and was the “driving force” for Ingalls.
He said fishing tournaments held at Ingalls have generated an economic impact of $3.9 million to date.
Parks said Ingalls was the result of many supporters, not just one person.
“I will accept this on behalf of everybody who likes this launch, who uses this launch and loves the river as much as I do,” he said. “Let’s go fishing.”