Tori Linville

Tori Linville

A graduate of The University of Alabama, Tori is a professional in the publishing industry and brings strong writing and editing skills while contributing creative ideas, contemporary concepts, and editorial experience to her varied projects.

Michelle Higginbotham teaches ninth grade English, Creative Writing and Southern Literature at Sipsey Valley High School. Before transferring to Sipsey Valley, she taught at Tuscaloosa County High school for 11 years. Higginbotham began her teaching career in the fall of 1999. Since then, she’s tried to set a goal of making her lessons fun and engaging for her students.

Habitat for Humanity will host its Vets for Vets event on Friday, Aug. 11 at 6 p.m. in the Hotel Capstone ballroom. The event is dedicated to Tuscaloosa’s local veterans who set aside their free time to assist with their fellow veterans’ home repairs. 

New hallways, new teachers and sometimes, a new school. Going back to school can mean a ton of jitters and a brain swimming with new information. How can a student keep it all straight? 

Thanks to our previously nominated DCL Teachers of the Month, we’ve gotten some advice straight from the teachers’ desks. What you do with it, well, that’s up to you. Check out what our esteemed teachers had to say:

Mr. Pig returns for another year to raise funds for the American Cancer Society on Friday, July 28. But instead of going to the market, Mr. Pig will switch venues to The Zone in Bryant-Denny Stadium.

“When we first started talking about the event in 2011, we were originally going to do it in The Zone because Dad was a huge Alabama fan, but we scratched it because of the 2011 tornado,” said Jay Welborn of B&W Foods. “The River Market was just built, so we created the event around that venue. We may end up back there next year.”

Tuscaloosa’s streets will sizzle on Saturday, July 29, as the 2017 Hot Hundred Bicycle Ride kicks off at 7 a.m. The hottest ride in the south will start at the University of Alabama’s Outdoor Pool Complex, and riders will choose whether they want to face a 29, 36, 52, 71 or 103 mile ride. 

The ride is organized to raise funds for mental health in partnership with the Tuscaloosa Mental Health Alliance. Since its beginning, the ride has only grown bigger with each passing year.

If Ashlynn Frith were an animal, she’d be a lion.

“Although they are pack animals that desire to work with others, they are also very independent and resourceful,” Frith said. “I feel like this is very indicative of qualities I already possess.”

Frith, an alumna of the University of West Alabama, has been teaching since 2014. As an eighth grade science teacher at Duncanville Middle School, Frith said she tries to keep her students engaged by using relatable information in her lessons.  

Fans of the blues are gearing up for a major upcoming event celebrating two days of music and more. The blues is being revived as the University of Alabama and the Alabama Blues Project have teamed up to host the Alabama Blues Weekend on Friday, July 7 and Saturday, July 8 at the Bryant Conference Center.  The weekend comes with an introduction to the blues, live performances, and more.

Theatre Tuscaloosa is bringing the Tony Award-winning musical “Ragtime” to Shelton State University’s Bean-Brown Theater from Friday, July 14 to Sunday, July 23. The number one reason to attend would be for the music alone, according to Tina Turley, the show's director. 

The Community Foundation of West Alabama will honor its annual community Pillars of West Alabama class this Thursday, June 22 at the Indian Hills Country Club. The meal begins at 6 p.m. with the awards ceremony to follow.

“The CFWA was only five years old and looking for some way to help publicize the foundation,” said Glenn Taylor, the organization’s president. “The idea was to have an annual event recognizing people who have meant so much to making West Alabama a great place to live. Dr. John Blackburn came up with the idea, and it has really grown each year.”

Ever tried biking through Tuscaloosa? It probably wasn’t as easy as you thought it would be.

At the moment, there’s a group of community members and organizations working to remedy the problem. The Sassafras Center for Arts and the Environment leads the movement for more bike lanes in Tuscaloosa with the support of the City of Tuscaloosa, The University of Alabama, the UA Bicycle Advocacy Coalition, the Druid City Bicycle Club, I Bike Tuscaloosa and local businesses.

Sassafras has only allocated hundreds of dollars for a project that would be the equivalent of $250,000 of master planning. Partnerships in the community, like those the Sassafras Center has implemented, are vital to overcoming budgetary hurdles, Mayor Walt Maddox said.

“Over the past 10 years, the City has made great strides in becoming a more connected City for pedestrians and bike riders. The River Walk was instrumental in setting the tone, as we incorporated cycling and other physical activity as a part of City infrastructure and continue with citizen-driven initiatives like the City Walk,” Maddox said. “We want to be a more connected city, and accomplish that through the development of shared use paths or bike lines when feasible. As is the case most often, budget drives how far the City can go, so developing partnerships is critical to see this vision fulfilled.”

The center’s efforts to make Tuscaloosa as bike-friendly as possible have included thousands of hours of man hours retrofitting old roads for cyclists and installing new bike racks, while encouraging community members and University students to continue cycling around town. The push to add more bike lanes to Tuscaloosa’s roads will benefit motorists as well as cyclists, Sassafras’s Executive Director Eric Courchesne, said.

“If you put a cyclist on the road without a bike lane, there’s an increased probability for accidents and traffic because of the cyclists. We know people who cycle see this as a no-brainer,” Courchesne said. “For people who have a negative view [of cyclists], we’re trying to put people in a bike lane to get them out of the way. That’s a 10 percent reduction of traffic. That’s two lights and 10 minutes saved on the average commute.”

Sassafrass has approached the project by developing a map of Tuscaloosa divided into 32 areas of roughly the same number of miles. Volunteers were then trained to look for four categories of classification for roadways: an already existing safe street for bikes, a street that can be made safe with low-cost investments, such as paint and signage, an unnecessarily wide street for its current speed, and traffic that could benefit from a bike lane and/or streets that would simply not be safe for bikes, like interstates or private roads.

Volunteers have helped map out which streets are safest for cyclists.

“Our volunteers went out, had a map in their hands, four highlighters and a pen. They rode every single street segment on their map,” Courchesne said. “We then sent out volunteers a second time to control for human error.”

The UA Civil Engineering department helped to digitize the data that the City of Tuscaloosa plans to use. The department added elevation data, included demographics data showing the population density and average household incomes, as well as key data that shows where schools and shops are located for areas where people would want to bike to, Courchesne said.  

The Sassafras Center’s beta map of their work has only appeared to the public once while at the Sassafras Beer Festival.

“It’s one of the most robust maps in the country, and it shows where we can build the lowest cost possible to get the biggest bang for our buck,” he said. “The City is going to take this data, and they’ll have a list of recommendations to prioritize for planning. Even the UA Planning department has expressed interested to help them best retrofit existing roadways for cyclists.”

Courchesne said the map is just the first step.

“The City and UA are going to need to invest in planning, so we want to give them planning for free. I’m obsessed with efficiency, and we have an army of volunteers who have gone out and biked and because of that, we’ve ended up with a fantastic resource,” he said. “The next step is to share it with everybody and to have a version of the map we’re going to be able to put online. We want the community to take a look and to be able to crowd source future edits.”

Courchesne said those interested would be able to look online, see where their house is and report whether they think the center’s label of the street should change. Sharing the map with Google and other map services are also planned for even better bike route options.

“As we build new facilities, we will update the map and our partners so that the whole community has better access to safe route options,” he said. “We’re working additionally with UA’s Civil Engineering department to have senior design projects to be able to have students conceptually design plans and then hand the designs over to the City for high priority building projects to make building less expensive.”

Sassafras has even involved UA sculpting students as part of its efforts. Courchesne said the center is working to develop relationships with students to produce sculptural bike racks for the City to have access to for the same price that they would purchase regular bike racks.

“Our first [bike rack] is on 4th Street just west of Wilhagan’s and Green Bar. We have a blog post about it on the website,” Courchesne said. “We’re working with the City to develop a parallel program to that of their bench program. If a business wants a bench by their location, they can purchase one – we’re trying to arrange the same for the sculptural bike racks. If they want to buy one, they can pay the City $500 to procure the bike racks. It’s just one way we’ve been working to develop public-private relationships.”

Sassafras recruited the UA Sculpture department to craft visually creative bike racks.

Courchesne said the effort found a little more motivation in that Auburn is currently considered the most bikeable city in Alabama. Courchesne said he sees the rivalry as a healthy one.

“The fact that they’ve been investing in bikeability longer than us means we have some catching up to do. I would love to surpass Auburn. I see it as a win-win ultimately working on making our cities healthier, more livable and more fun,” he said. “If we’re going to spend money to get people downtown, why not spend it as efficiently as possible? We’re finding most projects can be built with little to no cost.”

The City already has construction documents for downtown, it just needs to appropriate funds, while the rest of downtown is essentially just a paint project, Courchesne said. As the City is experiencing a parking crunch, the support for bike lanes is clear. 

To show community leaders that the push to make Tuscaloosa bikeable isn’t as controversial as it once was, Sassafras started a petition with a goal to garner 2,000 signatures.

“The reality is, we’re just getting started. We’re a young organization with a handful of projects. We’re building our inaugural Sassafras Park, we’re going to build a world class facility and we’re helping to build community gardens,” Courchesne said. “We’re invested 100 percent in the community. I’m still volunteering as Executive Director. We’re hoping the community will be willing to support the work we’re doing financially.”

To find out more information about the petition, the a larger version of the bikeability map or Sassafras, visit sassafrascenter.org.

Druid City Living (DCL) is Tuscaloosa, Alabama's premier community newspaper, covering the great people, places and activities of the area.

 

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