Plans starting for Spanish Fort delta park

SPANISH FORT – A 142-acre parcel south of Bay Minette Creek will become a Spanish Fort city park and nature center at the entrance to the Mobile-Tensaw Delta under plans being discussed by city officials. Spanish Fort was awarded $8.5 million on Oct. 15. The money was one of 17 grants for Baldwin and Mobile County projects announced by Gov. Kay Ivey to be funded through the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act, or GOMESA, program. The act provides money from offshore oil and gas production to states that allow drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. Spanish Fort Mayor Mike McMillan said the city’s grant was the largest single Alabama GOMESA award announced for 2021. The total amount of all grants awarded was $41 million. He said city officials and council members have been working for several months to submit the project for state approval. “I think we made a good pitch,” McMillan told City Council members on Monday, Oct. 18. “Apparently, it was good enough because Governor Ivey did award us the grant. It was the biggest grant in the Mobile, Baldwin County area, which is outstanding. More importantly, it preserves a very historical piece of property. It gives us another venue for what I call some family friendly parks, some eco-tourism type parks with walking trails, picnic areas, canoe rentals, kayak rentals, piers.” At the grant announcement, McMillan said the purchase will be a benefit for not only Spanish Fort, but Baldwin County and the state. “It’s the entry to the Mobile Delta from Baldwin County in the Spanish Fort area. The acquisition of these properties will allow the preservation of natural, historic areas for all of Alabama’s citizens and will preserve this beautiful site from overdevelopment,” McMillan said. “The park enhances the state’s efforts to preserve and protect the natural beauty of the Mobile River Delta and surrounding areas while providing enhanced recreation opportunities for the public.” He said city officials will now have the property surveyed and begin to develop a master plan for the site. McMillan said the city will ask residents for their opinions on the best use for the property and will send out requests for quotes from engineering firms to develop plans for the site. “We’ve got a blank canvas. We’ve got to paint on it right. I think we will probably put out some RFQs for engineering, design specialists,” McMillan said. “This is not something that the City Council should make a decision about what’s going to happen. I think we need to hear from all our constituents in that venue to make sure we do this the right way.” Councilman J.R. Smith said that while the project may take years to complete, the purchase is a major step for Spanish Fort. “Getting this grant and us being able to get that piece of property is probably one of the biggest things that the city can do for its citizens since I’ve been here and probably for the next 10 years,” Smith said. “Because it may take 20 years or more to develop it, but at least we have that opportunity. Without the purchase of it, we’d never have the opportunity.” McMillan said the Baldwin County Commission approved multi-family zoning for the property about 13 years ago. Plans for that development were canceled after the economic downturn around 2008.