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Oil spill may impact local tourism

The Gulf oil spill may already be having an effect on local businesses, although that effect is difficult to measure.

Danny Jones, owner of Durbin Farms Market at Interstate 65 Exit 205 in Clanton, said he has seen a 10- to 15-percent drop in business since last year.

“I think we’re off a little bit from last year, but I can’t say whether it’s from the oil spill or the economy,” Jones said. “We’re fighting two different animals.”

Jones has heard from some out-of-town regulars who are not traveling to the beach because of the oil spill. He said he thinks the media’s portrayal of the disaster is having a negative impact on tourism.

“I think in the long run we’re going to see some effect,” he said. “It could be so much worse.”

Not everyone is being swayed by the news. Carroll and Janie Loggins of Athens stopped by Durbin’s on their way to Gulf Shores. Also shopping there were Linda Sullins and her family from Huntsville, who were traveling to Florida.

“We usually go to the beach every year around this time,” said Sullins. “We want to continue to support the area.”

Local markets are also catching business from coast dwellers making their way up the Interstate to their vacation destinations. Jack Gipson and his wife, of Spanish Fort, were at Peach Park on Wednesday. Gipson said many have canceled their hotel or condo rentals at the beach.

“It’s terrible,” he said.

Peach Park owner Mark Gray reported a busy season thus far. He said he has seen no drop in business.

“It’s been really busy. I mean, I’m worried about it because a lot of our customers are from the Interstate and are headed to the beach or somewhere down south,” Gray said.

Both Jones and Gray anticipate one of the best peach crops in recent years. Gray indicated he wouldn’t mind selling a greater volume of peaches at a lower price.

“It’s about time for a year like that,” he said.

Just up the street, Todd’s Produce is approaching its 20th anniversary. Co-owner Dordie Hayes said business has been better every year, and she hopes to see that tradition continue.

“I’m only $15 off of last year,” she said, adding that she predicts some effects of the spill.