Photo |  A new environmental interpretive center and pedestrian bridge over State Route 182 highlight $85 million worth of renovations at Gulf State Park.

Summer may be drawing to a close for many families, but that doesn’t mean it’s too late to enjoy a day at the beach. And for those making their way to Baldwin County, a visit to the new interpretive center and east pedestrian bridge at Gulf State Park is a must.

The facilities are adjacent to the fantastic Beach Pavilion, already a major draw for tourists and locals alike. According to a news release from the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR), Commissioner Chris Blankenship said the center and bridge are just the start of renovations to the park, which was devastated in 2004 by Hurricane Ivan.

Expected to open in the fall are the new lodge and conference center, located near the Gulf State Park Pier that stretches 2,448 feet into the Gulf.

“I’m sure you have very special memories of your experiences here at Gulf State Park,” Blankenship said during the ribbon-cutting ceremony. “This is a very special place to me. I’m proud to be the commissioner of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and oversee all our great state parks, including Gulf State Park. That’s one of the highlights of my job.

“I’ve been coming here since I was 3 years old, when we moved to Mobile from North Alabama. I have such great memories of the campground, the beach, the old pavilion and the old lodge and conference center. This is a great place. My daughter was married right out here on the beach. But this park is more than just the beach. At Gulf State Park, we have dunes, lakes, marshes, maritime forests, uplands, pine tree groves, oak bottoms, deer, raccoons, alligators, beach mice, insects like butterflies and birds of all kinds, including birds of prey.”

Gov. Kay Ivey has said the Interpretive Center and the East Pedestrian Bridge are key elements of the Gulf State Park Enhancement Project. “Both are important to the public’s access to Gulf State Park and to cementing Gulf State Park as a world-class facility and premier tourist destination on the Gulf Coast,” Ivey said in the ADCNR report.

As Blankenship said, Gulf State Park offers much more than just two miles of sugar-white beaches. In addition to cabins and cottages, activities include camping, hiking, biking, walking, swimming, fishing, boating, crabbing, birding, shelling, golfing, nature education, family gatherings and simply relaxing. For more information, visit www.alapark.com/gulf-state-park/ or call 251-948-7275.


USA grad gains promotion

Jason Downey has been named chief enforcement officer for the Marine Resources Division (MRD) of ADCNR. In addition to supervising MRD’s 18 conservation enforcement officers, Downey will act as a liaison with other state, local and federal law enforcement agencies, participate in various outreach programs and serve as a member of both the Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission and Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council law enforcement committees.

Downey began his career with MRD in 2002 as a laborer with the enforcement section and was was hired as a conservation enforcement officer in 2004. Prior to his promotion to enforcement chief, Downey served as an MRD dive team member and a certified FBI firearms instructor. He was promoted to conservation officer supervisor (lieutenant) for Mobile County in 2012.

Downey holds a bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of South Alabama.


Kickoff drawing closer

• Steve Campbell will open his first fall practice as the University of South Alabama football head coach this Friday. The Jaguars officially begin their 10th season Sept. 1, hosting Louisiana Tech at 6 p.m.

• The always-popular Jag Night on Dauphin is set for Friday, Aug. 31, in downtown Mobile. The event starts at Cathedral Square with a parade featuring the USA marching band. The players and coaches will travel down Dauphin Street before ending at Moe’s Original BBQ for a pep rally. A reunion for players from the first USA football team in 2009 will also begin that night and carry through game day.

• The Jaguars were originally set to play at LSU on Nov. 19, 2016, but that game was canceled after the Tigers’ schedule had to be altered due to Hurricane Matthew. The two schools have now signed a contract for another game.

The contest will be played Sept. 28, 2024, in Baton Rouge. It will be the third nonconference date set for the Jaguars that season, with South also slated to open with an Aug. 31 home game against North Texas before visiting Ohio University on Sept. 7.

In its first nine seasons of competition, USA has faced four other Southeastern Conference opponents, including a three-game series with Mississippi State that ended with the Jags opening the 2016 season with a 21-20 victory in Starkville. The Jags have also played Tennessee (2013), South Carolina (2014) and Ole Miss (2017). Future games against league members include a trip to Florida in 2020 and a return visit to take on the Volunteers the following year.


SHC baseball to host Summer Showcase

Spring Hill College will host a baseball showcase event at Stan Galle Field this Saturday. The event is open to 2019-2021 high school graduates only.

Organizers said the camp would provide maximum opportunity to learn from and display their talents to the SHC coaching staff. Each participant will field, bat and throw in front of coaches in a professional showcase format. Pitchers will throw bullpens to catchers in attendance.

Registration is limited to the first 70 participants. Camp check-in begins at 9:30 a.m. at Stan Galle Field. Contact the SHC baseball office at 251-380-3069 or visit camps.jumpforward.com.


Cobb brings home medals

Katie Cobb, a 2012 graduate of Murphy High, recently competed in the Special Olympic Games in Seattle, Washington. Her specialty is bocce, a lawn bowling game that traces its history back to the Roman Empire.

Cobb won a gold medal in Team Bocce and a silver medal in Doubles Bocce. In 2014, she won a gold medal in the single bocce event.

Cobb, who began playing the sport about 10 years ago, finished fifth this year in singles.