Governor Robert Bentley signs SB 231 beginning the process for a lodge and meeting facility to be built.
GULF SHORES, Alabama -
A very deliberate signature surrounded by people who helped make it happen, Governor Robert Bentley makes good on a promise to bring a convention center back to the state park.
"To have a component to bring new people to town that will do great things for environmental education, it's just fantastic," says Gulf Shores mayor Robert Craft.
The convention center that once stood here was long gone before the BP oil spill in 2010. The plan uses 85 and a half million dollars in BP fine money set aside for environmental restoration projects. Bentley says it is the proper use of the money. "How can you use that money to build this lodge?" "Well just like I said, it's the loss of human use money which cannot be used for natural resources. This has to be used for the loss of human use so that's how we tied this in."
The fight in the legislature was never about the money. It was about the length of the lease, the type of facility that would be built and who would work here.
"This amount of money probably will not build not sufficient to do what we would like to do," says Bentley. "What the bill did it gives us the opportunity to do a public private partnership if we wish. We may not have to do that. We're hoping we will be able to do this with possibly some of the RESTORE money for the economy."
Gulf state park is full of natural wonders and beauty. It has been called the jewel of the state park system and it's the only park in the system that makes money. A lodge and hotel back where it once stood will help others survive.
"How much better is it to build a lodge that's going to benefit the entire state park system and hopefully rescue it from bankruptcy, insolvency whatever you want to call it. That's huge to me," says Orange Beach mayor Tony Kennon.
There is no design for what will be built and no plans for a groundbreaking. The governor says they are in the conceptual stage of planning and only know it will be built to environmental standards and compliment its surroundings.