The Master Plan for Gulf State Park will serve to define the 5 key components of the restoration project, and establish ecological guidelines and design principles to guide the future development of the park.
Five Key Components of the Restoration Project
1. Enhancing the visitor experience.
The park’s 600,000 annual visitors will enjoy a vastly improved experience with nearly 10 miles of new walking, cycling, or running trails; approximately 3.5 miles of enhancements to existing park trails; and better connections throughout the park so visitors won’t need to drive as much to see all that it has to offer. Also included are new signs and kiosks providing information about the surrounding environment.
2. Restoring the dunes.
The project will use innovative techniques and native plantings to restore the equivalent of more than 50 football fields of dunes, which protect us from storms and provide a habitat for important animals. Additionally, there will also be restoration of the natural habitat for wildlife, including beach mice and nesting sea turtles..
3. Building an environmental information center.
This interactive exhibit space will include meeting space and classrooms as well as indoor and outdoor educational information devoted to our unique environment.
4. Creating a research and education center.
This new building will complement the park’s existing nature center (which receives 40,000 visitors per year). This project component will expand capacity for research and education programs through its classrooms and laboratories with a year-round program of environmental education for students K-12 and beyond. With a diverse set of ecosystems, Gulf State Park provides an opportunity to establish a powerful learning tool for visitors through in-depth, hands-on learning.
5. Rebuilding a Lodge in Gulf State Park.
This overnight stay and meeting facility will welcome everyone and improve public access to the park’s beaches, trails, freshwater ecosystems and other natural resources, as well as serve as a model of resilient, environmentally friendly coastal development. The reconstruction will occur within a smaller site than the original lodge (destroyed by Hurricane Ivan in 2004), which had been on the site since the 1970s.The first work to take place will be the dune restoration, expected to begin in early 2015. The entire project is expected to be complete by 2018.
The benefits from this project offer an unprecedented opportunity to enhance the ecological, cultural and economic potential of the park. The surrounding Gulf Shores and Orange Beach communities will enjoy numerous public benefits such as:
• Restoring the shoreline and dunes
• Restoring natural habitat for wildlife (beach mice and nesting sea turtles)
• Creating educational opportunities
• Enhancing sustainable recreation in the park
• Creating new trail connections, making the park more pedestrian friendly
• Creating economic opportunities for the greater community
• Providing construction jobs
• Creating long-term employment opportunities for local residents
• Generating tax revenue
• Increasing the state revenue to fund the operation and maintenance of all of Alabama’s 22 State Parks, which currently face a deficit.
For more information about the Gulf State Park Master Plan, and to access the presentation materials from the Master Planning Public Open Houses, please visit: http://gulfstateparkproject.ua.edu/project-description/.