Gulf Shores is poised to open the doors to a new state-of-the-art center for eco-tourism and sustainability, dubbed the "Gulf Coast Eco Center," in August 2024. Gulf Shores City Council was set to …
Gulf Shores is poised to open the doors to a new state-of-the-art center for eco-tourism and sustainability, dubbed the "Gulf Coast Eco Center," in August 2024.
Gulf Shores City Council was set to vote Nov. 13 on an agreement with the Gulf Coast Center for Ecotourism & Sustainability Center, a nonprofit.
The $13.4 million project, which is currently under construction, will include a new facility on city-owned property adjacent to Gulf State Park and Gulf Shores City Schools.
Additionally, if approved, the agreement would include an eight-year lease agreement with the option to renew and an annual payment of $300,000 to the center.
According to Dan Bond, environmental and grants coordinator, if approved, the agreement would establish a long-term agreement with the nonprofit, allowing the center to provide supplemental services including facility operations, fundraising and development and recreational educational programming.
"Establishing a long-term agreement with this nonprofit that we have worked with for so many years will give them the ability to grow the programs, seek other funding and develop the programs and truly be what this facility can be," Bond said.
According to documents, the annual payments to the center would be budgeted as a part of the city's annual budget beginning in 2024 and would continue throughout the agreement term.
If approved, the center would manage use of the facility between key partners and programs, coordinate custodial and maintenance with the city and school system, develop, coordinate, and promote annual schedule of programs and calendar of events, prepare an operations manual, provide an annual audit, annual budget and budget reports, programming insurance and coordinate the use of the facility for meetings and rentals.
In turn, the city would be responsible for maintaining and repairing the center, including utilities, power, water, sewer , police services, fire and rescue services, hurricane preparedness, hurricane protection panel installation, removal and replacement for the facility, maintenance and repair of infrastructure, landscape and horticultural services and facility insurance.
According to documents, the city was awarded $13,430,351 in RESTORE funding from the Alabama Gulf Coast Recovery Council to construct the facility.
The grant distributes money from civil and administrative penalties from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill to states that were affected by the incident.
"This is going to be a super exciting project for our kids, for our region, and it's going to be a great addition to our city," Bond said, "We are really excited about it."
About the project
In 2018, council approved a proposal from the center for program development and implementation and authorized a grant agreement with Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources for design of the Eco Center in the amount of $1,020,723.
In 2022, council approved a resolution authorizing a grant agreement with ADCNR for construction of the Eco Center in the amount of $12,409,728.
According to documents, the facility will offer programs that use access to the Gulf State Park learning campus, sites throughout the state park and surrounding regions.
The programs will also be designed and operated in coordination with Gulf Shores City Schools, Gulf State Park, Valor Hospitality, Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism research universities environmental education groups, industry partners and local business groups.
"We will to offer youth camps, school programs, workshops, trainings, tours, holiday programs, venue rentals and galas," said Travis Langen, executive director for the nonprofit. "We are also entertaining a membership program for the site itself, with access and perks including special classes and early registration."
According to Bond, this project is a part of the city's Vision 2025 Plan for Sustainability, a long-term plan that identifies five areas of focus critical to community success, including uniting the school system, city and state park with a like-minded nonprofit.