Gov. Kay Ivey was on hand in Orange Beach this morning as local and state representatives gathered to break ground on “The Launch at ICW,” a $17 million, six-lane boat launch on 47 acres at the foot of the Foley Beach Express toll bridge. To pay for the project, the state and county each chipped in $10.1 million and $6.9 million, respectively, from the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act (GOMESA).
In addition to the six launches, the site will also feature 200 lighted boat and trailer parking spaces, 84 passenger car spaces, six covered pavilions with picnic seating, a 600-square-foot grand pavilion, a restroom facility and more than a half-mile of sidewalks. Future amenities include walking trails, wooden bridges and fishing piers. The lead contractor on the project is McElhenney Construction.
“This will truly be an asset to the entire coast,” Ivey said, reiterating her support for keeping GOMESA funds — offshore oil revenues — for use in Alabama’s coastal region. “Alabama’s Gulf Coast is a foundation for our state’s natural beauty and it’s imperative we be good stewards of this area. Not only that but when you support the outdoors, you’re supporting the economy.”
Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Commissioner Chris Blankenship said demand for public access to outdoor recreation is “through the roof,” and was recently identified as one of the top three initiatives of a state innovation commission. He noted the Ivey administration has improved existing boat launches in Bayou La Batre, Dauphin Island, on the Causeway, in Daphne, Satsuma and elsewhere, while work is ongoing to repair the Fort Morgan pier and the Gulf State Park, both damaged by storms.
Orange Beach Mayor Tony Kennon said 2021 has been the busiest year ever at the beach, and boaters are parking their trailers miles from launches because spaces are full. Eventually, he said, the city intends to provide connectivity to the site to other amenities along the Intracoastal Canal, including The Wharf.
State Sen. Chris Elliott, who proposed the project during an election year in a move some thought was politically motivated, said it was a “transformational project.”
“The untold story is the impact on the boating public here, but also those around the county who have immense pressure on their local launches.”
Tyler Mitchell, Baldwin County construction manager, said the project should take eight months to complete, weather permitting, for an anticipated opening date of February 2022. The county also maintains launches in Lillian, Seminole, Live Oak Landing in Stockton and on Honey Road along Fish River.
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