November 14, 2013
By DAVID RAINER
Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
If the natural beauty isn’t enough of a lure, the Alabama State Parks System is about to sweeten the pot. Well, actually the pot won’t be sweet, but it’ll sure be savory.
To jump-start the celebration of Alabama State Parks’ 75th anniversary, the parks system has teamed with Bob Baumhower of Alabama Crimson Tide and Miami Dolphins fame for the Baumhower’s ShrimpFest and Bar-B-Q at Oak Mountain State Park near Birmingham.
The Oak Mountain event is the first of six events that will be held at several state parks to highlight the beauty and recreational opportunities at the parks system’s 22 facilities.
“Our parks are where people intersect with our natural resources,” said State Parks Director Greg Lein at a news conference at Gulf State Park Pier last week. “This is a celebration of who we are and the many resources that belong to the public. Our parks are about people and our natural resources. This helps our tourism in the state and our economy. We just can’t say it enough how important this is.
“We want to celebrate the partners we have with the Alabama State Parks System. First of all is Bob Baumhower, who has been a fantastic partner to the state parks system. Bob is going to be doing special events with us all next year, but we’re going to have a kickoff event this month.”
The ShrimpFest and Bar-B-Q at Oak Mountain is scheduled for Nov. 22. The event starts at 3 p.m. The price to attend the event is admission to the park, which is $3 for adults and $1 for children ages 6 to 11 and seniors 62 and older. Other than Baumhower’s, the event partners include Alabama Gulf Seafood and Good People Brewing Company.
Baumhower, who was a two-time All-American while playing for Coach Bear Bryant’s Crimson Tide and a five-time Pro-Bowler with the Dolphins as part of the famous Killer B’s defense, said Alabama’s state parks system certainly doesn’t get the recognition it deserves.
“I’ve been a fan of the state of Alabama and the parks system and the outdoors,” said Baumhower, who started in the restaurant business in Tuscaloosa with a small place that sold chicken wings. “I’ve also been a fan of the bounty in natural resources we have, especially down here on Alabama’s Gulf beaches and the bays. And I like eating seafood. So the combination of those things and the great relationships we’ve developed these past few years, we thought it would be a great idea to promote our parks system by doing some shrimp boils and good, ol’ barbecues and having them on-site around the state to highlight the great facilities we have throughout the state. We’re really excited about it.
“I was up there (at Oak Mountain) last week. It’s a fantastic park. We’re going to have an Alabama Gulf Seafood shrimp boil, and we’ll have some really good barbecue up there. We’re going to do it the Alabama way. We’re going to have good fellowship, good music and good food. Good People, a brewery out of Birmingham, is also going to be helping us. Buffalo Rock and Pepsi are going to be helping us. This is a great example of people coming together in a great atmosphere for the purpose of promoting the great things we have here in Alabama, especially our parks system.”
Lein said the alliance between Alabama State Parks and Baumhower, who now has 14 restaurants throughout Alabama, was easy to expand.
“Bob has been working with us on some advertising for the state parks system,” Lein said. “Through his love of the natural resources and the connection through his restaurants, it was just a natural marriage for us. Bob has since stepped up and said, ‘I want to do more.’”
Baumhower said for our state parks system and the restaurant business it’s all about relationships.
“We’ve been working with Alabama Gulf Seafood for a couple of years now, and we’ve always featured Alabama Gulf seafood at our restaurants,” Baumhower said. “And I’ve been in Alabama a long, long time. I moved here when I was a senior in high school and have always enjoyed using the state parks system.
“We have an amazing parks system. It’s something people need to rediscover if they haven’t been to a state park in a while. Through Alabama Gulf Seafood and Randy Jinks with State Parks and now my brother, David, who works for the state parks system, I’ve got a lot of connections. I love the state parks, the water. I love living in L.A. (Lower Alabama).”
Baumhower said Chef Steve Zucker, Aloha Hospitality’s corporate chef, will handle the culinary portion of the ShrimpFest and Bar-B-Q, while Danny Martin and Dale Burgess will help with the shrimp boils.
Speaking of shrimp, Alabama waters produce about 15 million pounds of shrimp annually, while the seafood businesses along the Alabama Gulf Coast process between 25 and 30 million pounds of the tasty crustaceans. The Alabama Marine Resources Division is charged with managing the state’s fisheries resources through conservation and promotion.
“Conservation inherently means providing access to those natural resources and the bounty the resources provide,” said Kevin Anson, Marine Resources’ Chief Marine Biologist. “Our job is to provide sustainable resources to provide opportunities for individuals to enjoy those resources through fishing, whether you own your own boat or access the resource through someone else, like charter fishing. People who don’t fish can buy those resources by visiting the local seafood shops or restaurants like Baumhower’s.
“This is a great opportunity to be working through Alabama Gulf Seafood and our involvement with that organization to promote Alabama seafood and promote the healthy aspects of eating Gulf seafood. We look forward to working with the Alabama State Parks System as it embarks on the celebration of the parks system’s anniversary and the resources and opportunities our parks provide to the public.”
While the Oak Mountain event is the kickoff for the parks’ 75th anniversary celebration, Baumhower’s ShrimpFest and Bar-B-Q events will be held in 2014 at Joe Wheeler State Park near Florence, Lake Guntersville State Park, Lakepoint State Park at Eufaula, Gulf State Park and again at Oak Mountain State Park. Stay tuned for exact dates.
PHOTO: (By David Rainer) Restaurateur Bob Baumhower joins Alabama State Parks Director Greg Lein, right, and Kevin Anson of the Alabama Marine Resources Division, left, at Gulf State Park to unveil the Baumhower’s ShrimpFest and Bar-B-Q promotion to five state parks as the Alabama State Parks System celebrates its 75th anniversary. The kickoff event is set for Nov. 22 at Oak Mountain State Park near Birmingham.