Now that summer is officially here, it’s time to enjoy ourselves. For some, it means more time to enjoy evening cooking. For others? It’s time to grab a cool cocktail and kick back in the backyard and just let the stress of the day melt away. This month, I’m offering up two recipes that fit the bill. These skillet pork chops are quick and easy, and they’re always a hit with the family. And the “Orangearita” is a lovely, unique take on the classic margarita, with a great refreshing citrus twist.  

Bon appétit! 

This little man is Jax, a 4-year-old male beagle/dachshund mix. He is this week's Humane Society of West Alabama Pet of the week!

The U.S. Coast Guard recently released its 2016 Recreational Boating Statistics, revealing that boating fatalities nationwide that year totaled 701, the highest number of yearly boating fatalities on record in the last five years.

Holy Spirit Catholic School 2017 Graduate Roeder McNair was selected as a Finalist in the National Merit Scholarship Program earlier in the spring semester.

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.

By Amy Materson

Walmart Neighborhood Market became the first grocery store in Tuscaloosa to offer customers an online shopping option this week as the store launched an online ordering and grocery pickup program. 

Take sunscreen with you to reapply during the day, especially after your child swims or exercises. This applies to waterproof and water-resistant products as well.

Follow the directions on the package for using a sunscreen product on babies less than 6 months old. All products do not have the same ingredients; if your or your child’s skin reacts badly to one product, try another one or call a doctor. Your baby’s best defense against sunburn is avoiding the sun or staying in the shade.

Summer is in full swing throughout West Alabama, and that means more time outdoors, and generally (for most of us) a sunnier disposition. Take advantage of some of these great local events and happenings this week.

And remember: If you’d like to have your event added to our online weekly calendar, just email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. We’re happy to add anything you’d like to announce.

The following is Mayor Walt Maddox’s 2017 Inauguration Address, delivered on May 22 at the Tuscaloosa River Market.

Mayor Walt Maddox 
Monday, May 22, 2017 
Tuscaloosa River Market 

In October 2001, I remember standing on the stairs inside City Hall waiting for the inaugural procession to begin, and thinking about what would the future would hold. 

Nearly 16 years later, I can still feel the excitement, energy and anxiousness that comes with taking an oath to serve your community.  

Four former members of the Alabama Crimson Tide men’s golf team: Bud Cauley, Dru Love, Trey Mullinax and Justin Thomas, will compete at the 2017 U.S. Open which begins Thursday morning and will be played at the Erin Hills course in Erin, Wis. Alabama is one of just four schools (Oklahoma State, Arizona State and Georgia) with four or more alumni in the event.

Every night these days I am lying in bed laughing at myself and the almost melodic article you may have recently read about my love of and being spoiled on Lake Tuscaloosa by the silence. They say don't speak about things you treasure. You may lose them. (Yes, I used the "they say"). Today, that is about all I hear, sound inflicted by the "they's" – as we have moved off the lake and into the suburbs.

For those of you looking for something fun to do with the kiddos this summer, you’ve got plenty of options. Midtown Village’s “Screen on the Green” summer movie series is one way to go. Each Saturday night at 8 p.m. through July 22, a fun, family-friendly film will be shown in the green space at Midtown for free. Things get underway this Saturday, June 17, with “The Secret Life of Pets.”

This cutie pie is Elliott. He is a solid back little male that is a bob-tailed kitten! And sweet Elliott is this week's Humane Society of West Alabama's Pet of the Week.

Jessica Sentell has been in the Tuscaloosa area since graduating from the University of Alabama in 2004. She began teaching at Brookwood Elementary School and now has a home at Echols Middle School.

Sentell teaches Special Education Inclusion for sixth graders, and tackles teamwork on a daily basis. She said her role calls for spending more time in other teachers’ classrooms than her own.

“Since I work in other teachers’ classes more than my own, I have the pleasure of collaborating with awesome teachers and am able to observe some amazing lessons and often steal strategies and tricks I see my fellow colleagues use,” she said.

The City of Tuscaloosa’s environmental services division will recognize Garbage Man Appreciation Day throughout the week of June 12-17.

It was March 1851. A mustachioed Frenchman lit a candle in the still air beneath the dome of the Pantheon, a former cathedral that was being used as a mausoleum in Paris. A polished brass sphere tethered by a 220-foot steel wire had been pulled to one side of its resting point and was released, as the flame severed a single silk thread. Every 16 seconds, the shining orb swung back and forth above the marble floor. But it was apparent something was different. With each completed oscillation, the pendulum’s path moved slightly to the left of the original release point. 

It's important to give children lots of opportunities to be physically active by running, jumping, climbing and exploring their world.  Being physically active every day is important for the healthy growth and development of babies, toddlers and preschoolers. The possibilities are endless; children will enjoy exercise if you introduce it early and often. Go out and play. Have fun as a family!

Happy Father’s Day week, everyone! (Don’t forget to spoil dad this weekend). This week’s calendar is once again packed with great events for everyone in the family. From the Tuscaloosa County UA Alumni’s annual wine tasting event to the United Way’s Day of Action to all of the great live musical acts set to perform in and around the city, be sure to get out and enjoy yourself.

And remember: If you’d like to have your event added to our online weekly calendar, just email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. We’re happy to add anything you’d like to announce.

Tuscaloosa native Jessica Procter has represented the Tuscaloosa area as Miss West Central Alabama Outstanding Teen, Miss Alabama’s Outstanding Teen, Miss Tuscaloosa and now the 21-year-old University of Alabama student is Miss Alabama.

Competing as Miss Leeds Area 2017, Procter took home the crown on Saturday, June 10, at Samford University’s Wright Center in Birmingham. For her talent, Procter sang “Over the Rainbow.” Classically trained, Procter comes from an entire family of singers. Her parents both performed as professional opera singers in Europe for many years, before ultimately settling in Tuscaloosa. Doff Procter is the director of The Alabama Choir School; mom Laurel Procter is an administrator and artist in residence there. 

Jessica Procter, named Miss Alabama on June 10, with her parents, Doff and Laurel Procter.

 

Procter is a junior at UA, majoring in Interdisciplinary Studies with a minor in Psychology. Her platform, “Step Up to the Plate,” aims to fight hunger, and Procter has been an avid supporter of the West Alabama Food Bank.

As Miss Alabama, Procter will go on to represent the state in the upcoming 97th Miss America pageant, set for September at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Preliminary competitions will be held Sept. 6-8, and the final night of competition on Sept. 10 will be broadcast live on ABC.

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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