October 21, 2010 - Orange Beach, AL (OBA) - Alabama State Parks officials unveiled the results of a $4.5 million renovation and upgrade of campground facilities recently at Gulf State Park in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach.
State Parks Director Mark Easterwood said the project includes a 5,000-square-foot swimming pool and splash pad. Dressing areas and restrooms are also included in the swimming facility. A new nature center replaces the one destroyed by Hurricane Ivan. The campground store and laundry facility were renovated and a large roof added to cover both, which forms a pavilion area between the buildings. Boat docks and boat slips were also renovated on Middle Lake. Easterwood said rental boats will be available in the future, while a classroom area and small amphitheatre will be added to the nature center to accommodate school groups.
Hugh Branyon, the Gulf State Park Superintendent for 35 years until his retirement earlier this year, said the project started under his watch and is thrilled to see it virtually finished.
“This park is a wonderful place,” Branyon said. “I’ve always preached that if you keep the children happy, they’re going to bring momma and daddy down here. But if you don’t have something to keep the kids happy, you can forget it. This (swimming) facility is going to be great. It’s going to keep people coming down and coming back.”
Easterwood agrees that the campground area will become the centerpiece of the park away from the beach. The park encompasses 6,150 acres that span the city limits of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach.“We really think it’s something visitors are really going to enjoy during the summer and stay with a little longer,” Easterwood said. “A lot of people don’t know that there’s a lot more to Gulf State Park than just the beaches. We’ve got a lot more to offer here, including the campground and nature center. Our naturalist, Kelly Reetz, does programs for adults and children. She takes children’s groups on tours. We’ve got the (Hugh S. Branyon) backcountry trail, in association with the City of Orange Beach. It’s a great place to walk or bike. So there’s a lot going on in Gulf State Park other than our beaches, which are magnificent, too, as well as our fishing pier.”
The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources promotes wise stewardship, management and enjoyment of Alabama’s natural resources through five divisions: Marine Police, Marine Resources, State Parks, State Lands, and Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries. To learn more about ADCNR visit www.OutdoorAlabama.com.