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Local referendum

Preservation, protection of Canoe’s heritage on Nov. 3 ballot

News Staff Writer

Next Tuesday, November 3, Escambia County voters will help elect, among others, the nation’s next president, the state’s next senator and the next representative for Alabama’s 1st Congressional District.
But local voters also have the opportunity to voice their opinion on a local issue, a referendum that is designed to protect and preserve the heritage and historical significance of the county’s tiny Canoe community.
Passage of the local issue, which is listed at the top right of Page 2 of the ballot, will “define the Canoe Landmark District” and “prohibit the annexation …of any property” within the district except under certain conditions.
“If the referendum passes, the boundaries of Canoe would be established as a unique historical and cultural zone …and the area could not be annexed by any municipality without a vote of the people,” explained Kevin McKinley, president of Canoe Civic Club, the organization responsible for getting the measure before Escambia County voters. “The referendum doesn’t raise anybody’s taxes, doesn’t require any zoning, doesn’t place any restrictions on anyone’s property. It simply says that Canoe is historic, and worth being noted as a unique place in local history.”
The community was founded in the 1850s, when the area was still part of Baldwin County. During the War Between the States, Confederate soldiers had numerous camps in the area to guard the railroad, and a contingent of 8,000 Union troops camped at Canoe on their way to battles in Spanish Fort and Blakely as the conflict’s end neared.
The community flourished after the war. There were several retail stores in Canoe; there were cotton gins, sawmills, a bank, a hotel, three schools, a restaurant and more. Doctors and dentists had offices there.
McKinley, a practicing attorney in Atmore, also believes other areas of the county will benefit from passage of the local amendment.
“My hope is that passage of the Canoe Landmark District referendum will be a plus for not only Canoe, but Atmore and the surrounding area,” he said, pointing out that “we could use the designation to help gain grants to support some form of historically based tourism centered on festivals or other activities.”
He noted, too, that any tourist who visits Canoe will “certainly obtain their lodging in Atmore,” and would “conduct other activities which will benefit both communities.”
The civic club president admitted that he and other supporters haven’t been out beating the drum for the issue but said the COVID-19 pandemic and sicknesses within supporters’ families had played a large part in that fact. He said he will have his fingers crossed, hoping locals vote next Tuesday in favor of the measure.
“Due to family sickness, as well as the pandemic, we haven’t been able to campaign or have any events aimed at promoting the referendum, except word of mouth,” he said. “We hope everyone will vote ‘YES’ and help us preserve our area. Designating Canoe as a landmark district respects our past and looks to our future.”
Polls will open at 7 a.m. and remain open until 7 p.m. Voters are reminded that they should cast their ballots at the same place they voted in March, which in most cases is not the same place they voted in August’s city election. Identification will be required; masks are recommended.