Locals of Gulf Shores, Alabama, are having a tough time accepting an $85 million project to build improvements to Gulf State Park. The improvements are expected to be completed by 2018 and will include a $56 million lodge and meeting space.
Cooper Shattuck, the executive director of the project for the University of Alabama and the former legal advisor to Gov. Robert Bentley, states that many are making incorrect assumptions about what the project will entail. He believes that once the people understand what the project is about and what is trying to be accomplished, they will be more accepting. He states that the goal is to create property that is “sustainable, environmentally and economically.”
The builders want to make it a unique facility and build it on the same space as the old lodge, which was destroyed by Hurricane Ivan. The lodge is one of the most noticeable aspects of the project, but it’s not the only one. Other important aspects of this exciting project include: building an environmental information center near the existing pavilion, a research and education center that would include laboratories, and dorms and laboratories for visiting students.
The building project is being funded through the National Resources Damage Assessment process, an initiative that resulted from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. The entire project is still in the planning stages, with architects, planners, and engineers having already been hired. A lawsuit has been filed by a conservation group, but planners are not concerned. The allegations made by the conservation group in the lawsuit entirely differ from those of the planners. It is not expected to hinder the project.
The executive director states that it is a “unique property and our goal is to embrace it and make it a unique facility.” The project is expected to generate tourism as well as business for local economies, providing revenue for the entire Alabama State Parks System. An additional facet of this project is that it relies on fees and not tax dollars for support.
Rather than building another typical hotel to place on the beach, builders are thinking of ways that the project would be of most use and significance to the area. The facility will not only be attractive, but will make use of the area’s natural resources, encouraging environmental consciousness. Descriptions that call the project a convention center are not accurate. The space will provide a place for people to stay as well as a meeting area.