The old University of South Alabama golf course could become Mobile’s newest bayside attraction, if plans submitted to the Gulf Coast Recovery portal come to fruition.

One such plan submitted by Pelican Coast Conservancy Director of Operations Walter C. Ernest IV would set aside the land and preserve it.

Ernest said his plan, which the city would have to support, would preserve the 150 acres but could allow some public access. He said he envisions a greenway similar to what is being built at Three Mile Creek. The project goes hand in hand with others the city is currently focused on.

“There would be some kind of public access,” Ernest said. “The ‘Bring Back Broad’ initiative could easily tie into this.”

The project also “aims to preserve this remaining undeveloped property … restore and conserve priority habitats, connect the community to our natural surroundings and foster an overall environmental ethic,” according to the project description.

In addition to being a great natural habitat for migratory birds, the land could be linked to local biking and recreation trails, Ernest said.

“We do need more public access to the waterfront,” he said. “At the same time, we need more conservation.”
As for the property’s current owners, the USA Foundation, Ernest said he believes they are willing to sell, even if the land is not on the public market.

In the proposal, Ernest has asked for money from the BP settlement to acquire the land and additional funding to manage it. The acquisition price is still up in the air, though, as it would be determined by a federal appraisal, he said. Ernest has estimated the project would require more than $8 million in funding.

While Ernest believes the project could fit into any of the buckets of Gulf Coast Recovery Council funding available, he said National Fish and Wildlife Foundation funding was probably the most appropriate. In a letter to the Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund, Ernest wrote in support of the city acquiring the funds for the project.

Projects funded through NFWF do not need recovery council approval and would be subject to approval from the federal government based on a recommendation from Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey. NFWF proposals typically have an ecological or environmental component, council Executive Director Eliska Morgan said.

Morgan said the recovery council is currently reviewing submissions for its third bucket of money. Once the field is narrowed down, the council will begin to ask for in-depth evaluations of the projects selected.

Requests for evaluations have gone out on 30 projects selected for funding through the council’s first bucket of money from the BP settlement.

The Mobile Airport Authority has also submitted a plan for the USA Foundation land through the public portal. The MAA’s plan would use the land to expand the Brookley Aeroplex footprint, but also would be used to connect parklands, according to the proposal.

“In order to optimize the use of this Aeroplex for current and potential future tenants, key adjacent parcels have been identified for acquisition,” the project description reads. “Land acquisitions for industrial and potential commercial use will increase economic potential of this Aeroplex, attracting aviation and aerospace businesses and jobs. In addition, some potential acquisitions for buffer lands will connect and consolidate greenspace/parks owned by the city of Mobile and enhance much needed public access for surrounding communities.”

The project calls for acquisition of 750 acres in total and an estimated cost of $62 million.

The amount of money requested for each project could be a limiting factor as to whether it is selected by the council for further review, Morgan said.

“There is an incredible number of projects and not enough money to fund them all,” she said.

In projects concerning the city, Morgan added, the council might look to Mayor Sandy Stimpson for a nod toward any project.