Gulf Shores to hire consultant to develop ecotourism center
State-of-the art facility to be constructed on City property, using $9.7M in RESTORE funding
By John Mullen
Gulf Shores will hire a consultant to develop and design the city’s new Gulf Coast Center for Ecotourism and Sustainability and promote ecotourism at a cost of $25,000.
The council accepted a proposal from Travis Langen to conduct work related to the establishment of the center including a multi-year plan and establish a 501(c)(3) to manage and operate the facility.
“This program will be housed in a state-of-the art facility to be constructed on City property, using $9.7M in RESTORE funding, adjacent to the State Park,” city documents state.
The work is not slated to begin until 2020, Environmental/ Grants Coordinator Dan Bond said and plans are to have it completed by 2021. Gulf Shores is still waiting on final approval on the awarding of the money for the project.
“The project has been approved by the Alabama Gulf Coast Recovery Council and the final plan should be approved later this year,” Bond said. We anticipate a grant agreement with Treasury sometime in Spring 2019 and then the formal design process will begin.
“This is going to be an exciting project.”
Part of Langen’s job will be to establish relationships with Gulf State Park staff and Valor Hospitality, operators of the new Gulf State Park Lodge.center hopes to utilize facilities in the park as part of its education programs.
“The City is committed to work with Gulf State Park to establish a world class environmental education and ecotourism program in partnership with Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ocean Futures Society,” city documents state.
The program will utilize access the State Park Learning Campus facility located adjacent to Gulf Shores Middle School, as well as sites throughout the state park, including the pier, the Interpretive Center, the Nature Center, Lake Shelby, the beach and the Hugh Branyon Back Country trail system.”
Mayor Robert Craft has described the center as being similar to the highly successful NASA Space Camp located in Huntsville with a focus on learning about the environment and how to take better care of it.
“The program will bring students, teachers, tourists, business groups, and academic groups from around the country to participate in activities that support ecotourism and sustainability, and promote the stewardship of our natural resources,” city documents state.
Langen has several tasks in front of him to complete before the end of the year. First off he will work with the city and a board of directors to establish budgets for 2019-21 and work with the council to secure funding.
He’ll have to work hand-in-hand with the Ocean Future Society to develop ecotourism programing in coordination with the state park and the lodge to “maximize potential programming opportunities.”
Langen will also be tasked with working with the board of directors to hire a staff, set up accounting, marketing, human resources purchasing and scheduling the programs.
u5jThat will include marketing the program to schools and schools systems.
Plans are to develop a “robust program schedule” by the fall of 2019.
“Travis Langen has 18 years of experience directing the Ambassadors of the Environment program on Catalina Island, and brings a wealth of knowledge and skill that will ensure the success of the Gulf Shores program,” city documents state.
Also during the work session:
• Paying Olsen Associates $51,900 for environmental permitting for Hurricane Nate engineered beach losses. The city estimates about 460,000 cubic yards of engineered beach was lost in the storm surge. This task order would authorize Olsen to perform the necessary environmental permitting to get approvals from Fish and Wildlife, ADEM, USACOE, DCNR and SHPO that are required by FEMA before restoration work can begin.
• Authorizing Mayor Craft to execute a professional services agreement with Red Square Agency to develop the brand identity for Gulf Shores City Schools for $25,000. This would include graphic Identity – system-wide, individual schools and athletics, a color palette, typography, graphic standards manual and business paper design – letterhead, business cards, envelopes and notecards.
• Approving spending $110,000 to find artists, produce marketing materials and start ticket sales for the yearly winter entertainment series. Also included in the price will be securing artists for the Music at Meyer Park in the spring.
• Issuing assembly permits for the Police Department and the Coastal Alabama Business Chamber. The police will host its annual National Night Out celebration at Pelican Place on Oct 9 and the chamber will have the 47th National Shrimp Festival on Oct. 11-14.
• Issuing assembly permits for Gulf Coast Region of USA Volleyball events at West Place on Oct. 6 and Oct. 27 and to Springhill College for a college beach volleyball tournament on Oct. 27.
• Issuing an assembly permit for the Gulf Shores High School Homecoming Parade on Sept. 13.
• Approving liquor licenses for the Surf Style store at 101 W. Beach Blvd. and for Bywater Beachside located on the Gulf State Park Pier.
Center for Ecotourism and Sustainability Mission Statement
The mission of the Center for Ecotourism and Sustainability is to promote sustainable tourism, raise environmental awareness, and encourage the stewardship of natural resources in order to increase community resilience, strengthen the regional economy, and enhance the quality of life for residents and visitors in the Gulf Coast Region.