One of the big reasons for rebuilding the Gulf State Park Lodge and Convention Center was to add sorely needed meeting space and do so with a stunning view of the Gulf of Mexico and Alabama’s beaches.
Offshoots of that project were improvements all around the park, including the building of a Learning Campus in the woods behind park headquarters that can provide lodging and a variety of small meeting places and classrooms.
“This was the last piece of the puzzle,” said Chandra Wright, director of environmental and educational initiatives for Valor Hospitality, which manages the lodge and other campground accommodations. “It offers visitors a different view of our environment here and lets them know we have more than a beautiful beach.
“We’re able to accommodate 64 people so we’re able to target student groups, church groups, scout troops, family reunions. Whoever is looking for a different kind of gathering experience.”
Each cabin can house 32 guests with four bunks to a room. All the bunks have their own light, fan, electrical outlets for charging stations and a privacy curtain.
“This is a lot like a sleeping car on a train,” Wright said.
Also, in each building are four bathrooms, four separate shower rooms and a laundry room that is free of charge. Valor also takes care of the pillows and all linens in the bunkhouses.
If the guests opt to not use the residential kitchen in the check-in area, the nearby Woodside Restaurant, also built during the Gulf State Park Project, offers special pricing for those staying in the Learning Campus.
“Woodside Restaurant is designed to be the dining hall for the Learning Campus,” Wright said.
Groups can rent out either bunkhouse by itself or both facilities. Within walking distance are five meeting places; the Conservation Hall, which can hold up to 200 people for presentations; two indoor classroom spaces, including one with a lab already in place; and two screened-in pavilions. All are available for all kinds of groups and meetings.
Conservation Hall has been used several times already including a screening of the Flora-Bama documentary “Stories in Rhyme” and will host a regional watershed meeting in February. The Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge will also have a monarch butterfly seminar and other presentations in the hall.
Besides being available to groups, plans are in the works to have programs for students at nearby Gulf Shores City Schools as well as programs that will be open to the public.
“We’re trying to create awareness that this place is ready and open for business,” Wright said. “Part of it has been trying to get some kinks worked out of it and try to target those groups that will want to come here.”
Wright said the new Gulf Coast Center for Ecotourism & Sustainability will be using the facility for its programs as well.
“That is one of our primary clients and to give them space while they are building their facility,” she said.
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