In an agreement reached between the state and city last week, all nonresidents of Orange Beach will have to pay to park at four beach accesses at Gulf State Park effective April 23. Using state-owned and state-operated kiosks at Romar Beach, Cotton Bayou, Alabama Point and Shell Lot, each “personal vehicle” will be charged a rate of either $3 for up to two hours, $5 for up to four hours or $10 per day. Daily rates of $15 are provided for “passenger vans” and $30 for RVs and busses. Veterans may obtain a free annual pass at the park office, but more frequent visitors may also purchase an annual pass for $100, which expires at the end of each calendar year.
According to the agreement, parking will remain free for full-time residents of Orange Beach who provide proof of residency at an address within the corporate limits. At the City Council meeting April 20, Mayor Tony Kennon said residents may apply for permits at City Hall, and the city will provide two decals per household. Additional decals may be purchased for $25.
For its part, the city will be responsible for janitorial services, housekeeping and maintenance at the four parking areas, including raking and grooming the beach and staffing it with lifeguards. The state will pay for utilities at the accesses including power, water and sewer, while the city “will continue to provide routine maintenance of 14 miles of trails and seven access points” for pedestrians and cyclists within the park.
In turn, the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) will pay the city $100,000 per year, invoiced $25,000 per quarter, plus any costs incurred for labor and materials for “routine maintenance.” The 20-year agreement will be reviewed by both parties every four years.
A representative of Gulf State Park did not respond to requests for additional information, but the park provided a statement indicating the fees collected “will be used to improve and maintain all of the facilities enjoyed by park patrons, whether they are local, other Alabama residents or out-of-state guests.” The state did not provide information regarding projected revenue, enforcement of paid parking areas, or whether the paid parking will be seasonal.
At the council meeting last week, Kennon said the city was not responsible for parking enforcement. The agreement with Orange Beach also provides concessions for frequent anglers, photographers and event staff who have purchased other annual permits from the state or city.
Meanwhile, Gulf State Park’s accesses in neighboring Gulf Shores remain free, including the pier that was partially reopened last month for the first time since it was severed during Hurricane Sally. But ADCNR indicated parking kiosks may eventually be introduced there as well.
“The city of Gulf Shores is having discussions with Gulf State Park related to its residents’ ability to park for free at the Gulf State Park beach accesses within its corporate limits,” the statement said. “We recognize the significant partnership between Gulf State Park and the city of Gulf Shores over the years and look forward to continuing and enhancing the relationship for years to come.”
Gulf Shores already charges for parking at five of its city-owned beach accesses, while it provides an entire parking area free of charge for residents. The fees, which are only collected from March 1 through November 30 each year, are $5 for up to four hours or $10 per day. No overnight parking is allowed.
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