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McMillan Pier and Boat Ramp Officially Opened at Fort Morgan

Governor Kay Ivey and Conservation Commissioner Chris Blankenship join local dignitaries to open the Steve McMillan Fishing Pier and Boat Ramp at Fort Morgan. Photo by Billy Pope

By DAVID RAINER, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

The ribbon-cuttings to provide access to Alabama’s abundant natural resources continued last week as Governor Kay Ivey, Conservation Commissioner Chris Blankenship and other dignitaries officially opened the State Representative Steve McMillan Fort Morgan Fishing Pier and Boat Ramp on Mobile Bay.

The facility was named in honor of the late Rep. McMillan, who had served Baldwin County in the Alabama House of Representatives since 1980.

Governor Ivey said the reopening of the pier and renovated boat ramp is a great way to recognize a great statesman of Alabama.

“I’m honored to be here to honor Rep. Steve McMillan’s service to this area by naming this pier and boat ramp in his name,” Governor Ivey said. “For more than 40 years, Steve served with the distinction that very few can imagine. His work demonstrated his commitment to south Baldwin County, especially in the Fort Morgan area. I was sure proud to call Steve my friend. As a ‘thank you’ for the work Steve has done for Baldwin County, it’s only fitting that this boat ramp and pier bears his name. The State Representative Steve McMillan Fort Morgan Fishing Pier and Boat Ramp has been long in coming. Since before the Civil War, there has been a dock at this location.”

Governor Ivey said access to the great fishing on the lower end of Mobile Bay was sorely missed after the old pier was closed in 2014. With the new facilities, the recreational opportunities will again abound and contribute to the state’s tourism economy.

“When the old pier became hazardous and was forced to close, we understood the rebuilding of this pier was necessary,” Governor Ivey said. “Not only did we realize we had to keep Alabama history alive, but we knew this rebuild would improve the recreational use of our state’s beautiful natural resources. This new pier and boat ramp and basin will provide access to the fisheries and waterways for all. This has been a much-needed project, and I’m excited that with the help of Commissioner Blankenship and his team, a lot of other good work is going on in coastal Alabama.

“We just announced more than $47 million in National Fish and Wildlife Foundation-funded projects for this area, and there is so much more to come. It doesn’t take much to realize that Baldwin County is a whopper of a catch for our state’s tourism industry, and I fully expect that industry to grow even stronger after the opening of this boat ramp and pier. Commissioner Blankenship and I have cut ribbons at several boat ramps during the past few months, and I can’t think of a single spot any more beautiful or historic than this public access site.”

This project was funded through the Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) allotments from the BP oil spill in 2010. The renovated pier is L-shaped with dimensions of 305 feet by 210 feet and 40 feet wide. The pier floor is 8 feet off the surface of the water at mean tide. The boat ramp has two lanes with adjacent docks, and the fishing pier also serves to protect the basin from siltation and storms. The facility is open 24 hours with free admission.

“I am very blessed to be the Commissioner of Conservation,” Commissioner Blankenship said. “There are a lot of things we get to do around the state that are valuable to our quality of life in Alabama. Projects like building this pier and the renovations to the boat ramp by our Marine Resources Division are critical to allow enjoyment of the waters and fisheries. We also have a governor who feels that outdoor recreation and boating access are very important.

“We’ve had ribbon cuttings during the time that Governor Ivey has been in office at Demopolis, Orange Beach, Camden, Oak Mountain State Park, Bon Secour, Grand Bay, Bayou La Batre and the Mobile Causeway for public projects for boating access or public access. And that’s not the end. It’s just the beginning. There’s more to come in the next four years of Governor Ivey’s term.”

On a blustery day at Fort Morgan, Governor Kay Ivey paid tribute to the late Rep. Steve McMillan's service to Alabama. Photo by Billy Pope

Rep. McMillan’s twin brother, John, talked about how special the Fort Morgan area is to their family.

“We had an aunt who had a cottage right back up the beach,” said John McMillan, who has been Conservation Commissioner, Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries and State Treasurer during his public service career and now continues that public service heading the state’s Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission as its Director. “There wasn’t much down here back then. We did a lot of fishing and walking the beaches back then. The most memorable thing we did was walk down the beach to Fort Morgan and visit with Hatchett Chandler, the custodian here for a number of years.

“We had cousins who had houses on this peninsula. We spent a lot of our childhood down here fishing. Steve loved to fish. This is certainly an appropriate recognition.”

Governor Ivey and Commissioner Blankenship were able to present Rep. McMillan with a resolution about the naming of the Fort Morgan facility in his honor before his death.

“There’s not anything you all could have done that he would have appreciated any more because of the lifelong connections he had with Fort Morgan and this peninsula,” John McMillan said.

The pier and boat ramp property are owned by the Alabama Historical Commission, which approved the construction of the new facilities on the site of the previous pier, which was shut down when it became unsafe because of age and battering from numerous hurricanes and tropical storms. Because the new pier is located on a historic site, special rules applied to the excavation of the area, which expanded the construction timeline.

“We worked through many historical preservation issues on the site,” Commissioner Blankenship said. “And now we get to celebrate the culmination of that work.”

Dr. Jim Day, Alabama Historical Commission Chairman, expressed his appreciation to Governor Ivey for her support of historical preservation across the state of Alabama. Day said the Commission is grateful for the partnership with the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources to be able to honor Rep. McMillan.

“We’re grateful to Steve McMillan and his family for their support of historic preservation and Fort Morgan, specifically,” Day said. “Mobile Point, where we are today, has been a part of the coastal defenses of America since the construction of Fort Bowyer here in the War of 1812. Construction of Fort Morgan was completed in 1834. Military occupations at Mobile Point include the Civil War, Spanish-American War, World War I and World War II.

“Troops stationed at Fort Morgan were always in need of recreation. Many wharfs, piers and docks have been constructed around the point over the years, supporting activities at the fort and serving as recreational opportunities for soldiers and their families. These structures were built for the transportation of supplies, docking for watercraft, fishing for soldiers, sunbathing and a quarantine wharf for the hospital. We’re excited to have this pier renovated for the public to enjoy and continue to experience the history here.”

Patrick Bussey of GUMBO (Gulf United Metro Business Organization), a coalition formed to promote south Baldwin County, said Steve McMillan was his only state representative during his 35 years on the Alabama Gulf Coast, and it is appropriate to honor him with the naming of the pier and boat ramp.

“For my entire life down here, Steve was our leader in Montgomery,” Bussey said. “It’s certainly service beyond compare. Steve was a workhorse. If you went to Steve’s office, it was stacked with papers on projects he was working on on behalf of this district, this county and the entire state. Steve loved this Gulf Coast, and he worked hard to ensure this resource was protected and used for the benefit of the people of the State of Alabama.”

Commissioner Blankenship said four funding sources were used to provide the $4.5 million needed to complete the pier and boat ramp.

“Those include Sport Fish Restoration dollars and your fishing license dollars,” Commissioner Blankenship said. “For NRDA approval and permitting, it involved seven different federal agencies, six state agencies and others. Working through multiple issues with weather, material shortages, historic preservation and many other challenges, it sure feels good to cut this ribbon.

“This facility will forever bear the name of Steve McMillan and will be an enduring testimony of his dedication to south Baldwin County.”

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Conservation Commissioner Chris Blankenship said projects like the McMillan facility improve the quality of life for Alabamians. Photo by Billy Pope

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