The Mobile County Commission approved the purchase of the Escatawpa Hollow Campground during a regular meeting on Jan. 28 in hopes of creating more public access to local waterways.

The 45-acre waterfront campground was purchased for $715,000 through Mobile County’s Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act (GOMESA) as a Public Access Acquisition Project using royalties the county receives from federal oil and gas leases in Alabama’s offshore waters.

According to the 2018-2020 Mobile County GOMESA Expenditure Plan, the project’s main objective was to “acquire waterfront property from willing sellers that is suitable for providing the public with new or improved opportunities for recreation along local waters.”

Officials are hoping to improve the campground by adding additional campsites, walking trails, river access and other amenities.

According to the expenditure plan, the project criteria requires an “implementation of a federally approved conservation management plan,” and clarifies the expenses “will be managed so that public access is controlled to limit impacts and protect the surrounding environment.”

There are nine projects the County Commission is working toward through 2020. Of those, the purchase of Escatawpa Hollow ranks as the second most expensive, following the development of a public access master plan that will include Chickasabogue Park and the River Delta.

The county’s GOMESA expenditure plan also includes a plan to build a permeable parking lot at the soccer complex the county is building in the corridor of Interstates 10 and 65 as well as efforts to pave dirt roads in rural areas and support the county’s recycling center in west Mobile.

“We’ve been trying to buy this property almost as long as I’ve been on the commission,” Commissioner Merceria Ludgood said. “I’m glad we were finally able to do it. It’s an important resource for Mobile County.”

The purchase of the park aims to complement the planned countywide Blueway Trail by allowing canoe and kayak lovers to paddle down the Escatawpa River portion of the park. The river stretches from northwest Mobile County to Moss Point, Mississippi. The Blueway Trail is being funded by the RESTORE Act, which was established in 2012 to provide funding for the restoration of local ecosystems and economies affected by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

The campground is situated on the Alabama/Mississippi state line off Moffett Road, on the south side of U.S. Route 98. A segment of the Escatawpa River runs alongside the park. Along with Chickasabogue Park, located near Saraland, this new county campground will provide outdoor enthusiasts another camping venue and allow greater public access to those resources.

“This is a great project for Mobile County,” Commission President Connie Hudson said. “I’m very happy about this opportunity to expand recreational and water access to all of our citizens.”