Foley adding to Graham Creek Nature Preserve

By GUY BUSBY
Government Editor
guy@gulfcoastmedia.com
Posted 7/27/22

FOLEY — What has been called Alabama's largest municipal nature preserve will almost double in size with funding from a federal environmental grant.The Foley City Council voted Monday, July 18, …

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Foley adding to Graham Creek Nature Preserve

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FOLEY — What has been called Alabama's largest municipal nature preserve will almost double in size with funding from a federal environmental grant.

The Foley City Council voted Monday, July 18, to accept a $2.5 million grant through the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act, known as GOMESA. The money will be used to buy about 500 acres on the south side of the Graham Creek Nature Preserve, Leslie Gahagan, Foley environmental director, said.

Mayor Ralph Hellmich said the addition will offer residents and visitors more opportunities for recreation and education.

"I think we are currently already the largest municipal nature preserve in Alabama," Hellmich said. "Now we're getting an additional 500 acres."

Gahagan said the reserve now has more than 600 acres of property and will soon acquire 68 more acres in addition to the 500 to be purchased with the GOMESA funds. "So, we'll be close to 1,200," she said.

Much of the preserve south of Baldwin County 20 is near areas now being developed.

The GOMESA program distributes revenue from offshore oil and gas production to the Gulf states where drilling off the coast is allowed, including Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas.

Hellmich said efforts by Gahagan and other Foley staffers to preserve the environment with projects such as Graham Creek helped the city be approved for the funding.

"Working on all these different groups, it's a whole different world, the environmental world and you have to participate, be well respected in order for these groups to have this money come this way," Hellmich said. "Our city is well respected."

The Graham Creek Nature Preserve includes hundreds of plant and animal species in a variety of habitats including pine savannahs, bottomland wetlands, mixed forest and tidal marshes on Graham Creek about two miles from Wolf Bay. The facility also includes a trail system, disc golf courses, picnic area, bird-watching sites and other amenities.

At the July 18 meeting, the council also voted to buy additional land to add to the city soccer park on U.S. 98. The council voted to buy about 6.8 acres for $500,000.

Hellmich said the property owners reduced the price to allow the city to buy the land.

"They did lower the price somewhat. They were asking a lot more than the appraised price, which is very reasonable," Hellmich said.
"We're looking at buying any property around our parks that fits our needs and will help us expand the soccer complex so it's a good purchase," he added.

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