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Gulf Coast needs our support

The topic of the BP oil disaster has been brought up in nearly every setting imaginable, and for good reason — even though we don’t live there, it’s an issue that hits home in more ways than one. And it doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon.

During the most recent Chilton County Commission meeting, Commissioner Allen Caton said county leaders should encourage people to support the area with their tourism dollars.

While most of the time we ask people to shop local whenever possible (I realize by personal experience that sometimes this is not possible), this is a case where it doesn’t hurt to direct people to our neighbors down I-65.

“Those people are hurting,” Caton said, shortly after vacationing in the Gulf Shores area. He told the story of a boat captain who took his own life because he apparently couldn’t take the loss to his business brought on by the disaster.

“It’s terrible,” said Jack Gipson, a resident of Spanish Fort, who was shopping at Peach Park recently. He told me that many have canceled their hotel or condo rentals at the beach. I have talked to others who have confirmed this.

People have also said you can walk in any restaurant in Gulf Shores and not have to wait. While I certainly don’t like waiting in line, this is troubling news to me. This should concern all Alabamians — aside from the environmental aspect — because a significant portion of our tourism dollars come from the Gulf Coast.

Chances are, nothing in this column is news to you. But I want to take this opportunity to encourage people to at least consider the Gulf Coast for vacation this year. I will be going myself in a few days.

Everything I have heard about the oil spill hasn’t been enough to keep me away. While I do enjoy getting in the water, I’m willing to sacrifice that because there are so many other things to do at the coast.