TUSCUMBIA — Colbert County commissioners Tuesday gave their blessings to the creation of the Sheffield Port Authority to be used as a vehicle to develop Tuscumbia Landing, which lies along the banks of Spring Creek and the Tennessee River in Sheffield.
The commission voted 4-0-1, with Commissioner David Black abstaining. Commissioner Jimmy Gardiner was out of town.
Black said he abstained because he wanted additional information before supporting the creation of the port authority.
Sheffield city attorney Vincent McAllister said a port authority is the best entity to seek and accept grants or gifts to develop the landing. He said the next step will be filing an application with the State Port Authority.
The creation of the port authority was approved by the Sheffield City Council.
McAllister said if the state approves the application, the authority will be registered in the probate judge’s office and a five-member board will be appointed. Two members will be appointed by the County Commission, two by the City Council, and a fifth selected by the four board members.
McAllister said a port existed before the construction of Wilson Dam and the founding of Sheffield.
“It was the furthest a boat could come up the river,” McAllister.
Tuscumbia Landing is known for its role in the Trail of Tears, the forced relocation of native Americans from the Southern United States to reservations in Oklahoma.
The property is adjacent to Sheffield’s Park West.
The property is the site of a proposed educational and interpretive center that would provide information about the landing’s connection to Native American history and the development of early industry and transportation in the Shoals.
The project is a cooperative effort among the Southeastern Anthropological Institute, Northwest-Shoals Community College and the National Park Service, as well as members of the Cherokee and Creek tribes, who also support the creation of the port authority.
Sheffield Mayor Ian Sanford and council members Gary Scales and Steve Nix attended the commission meeting.
“It’s surprising how many people that live in Sheffield and the Shoals don’t know the history of Tuscumbia Landing,” Scales said.
Black asked why the city wanted to create a port authority, which he considers a vehicle for economic development.
McAllister said after researching the issue, a port authority was the best entity to help move the proposed project forward. He said there were no plans to develop a casino on the site, which is owned and is expected to remain owned by the city of Sheffield.
In other business, the commission:
Russ Corey can be reached at 256-740-5738 or russ.corey@TimesDaily.com.