State, Baldwin County and Orange Beach city officials will gather Wednesday at 10 a.m. to cut the ribbon on a future boat launch and recreation area but they are still unsure of what the final product will look like.
“The plans are being developed and we’ve hired an engineer, Volkert,” Baldwin County Commissioner Skip Gruber said. “They’ve got a lot of work to do but we wanted to go ahead and have a ribbon-cutting for it so that we can start going.”
Gruber says Baldwin has sorely needed a launch in the south end of the county since the only public launch on Wolf Bay was put out of business when the Wolf Bay Lodge Restaurant burned down in December of 2008. It was on restaurant property and the new owners cut off public access when the parcel was sold after the fire.
The new launch will be located on 48 acres on the Intracoastal Waterway west of the Foley Beach Express toll bridge.
“This has been in the works for several years,” Gruber said. “A lot of hard work was done by the previous Baldwin County Commission, county staff, the state and property owners. This launch site will help citizens of Alabama get on the water and we will continue to work to identify additional water access locations around the county.”
When originally announced in May 2018, the county made a formal offer on the land with hopes of getting Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act money from oil and gas leases to pay for the purchase and to design and build the facility.
Gov. Kay Ivey announced in November the county would get the $7.5 million from the GOMESA funds to buy the property and the county will pay for the design and construction.
Originally, the project was to have 12 launches, parking for 450 boat trailers and 50 additional parking spaces for day-use areas and other amenities. Officials say it’s unlikely that the Army Corps of Engineers, Coast Guard or the Gulf Waterway Committee would issue permits for such a large launch. Volkert will handle all of those talks and getting permits, Gruber said.
“We’re going to try to get what we can get out of it,” Gruber said. “We gave them the conceptual plan that we had before and hopefully they can stick to what that is. They’re doing what they need to do to get a design for it. They’ve got to go through the permitting and everything and they are going to do all that for us instead of us trying to deal with it.”
He and fellow commissioners Joe Davis, Jeb Ball and Chairwoman Billie Jo Underwood plan to attend the ribbon-cutting along with Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Commissioner Chris Blankenship and Mayor Tony Kennon of Orange Beach.
“This boat launch will be a beautiful project located right on the Intracoastal Waterway that will allow citizens to enjoy fishing, recreational boating and other watersports,” Underwood said. “Baldwin County is blessed with abundant natural resources and by expanding access we are fostering an even greater commitment to protecting our waters.”
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