coastal restoration | Landscape Architecture Magazine

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Posted in ECOLOGY, ECONOMY, ENVIRONMENT, ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE, FEATURES, HEALTHY COMMUNITIES, PARKS, PLANNING, POLLUTION, RECREATION, REGION, REGULATIONS, RESILIENCE, SHORELINE, THE CLIENT, VIEWS, WATER, tagged Alabama, coastal restoration, Deepwater Horizon, State of Gulf Park, Gulf State Park Enhancement Project, Jared Brey, Oil Spill, Sasaki, Spackman Mossop Michaels, University of Alabama Center for Economic Development January 20, 2022 | Leave a comment ”

Gulf State Park in Alabama is one of the largest public projects funded by the Deepwater Horizon settlement. Many more are coming.

The Lodge at Gulf State Park is built directly into the dunes, so as you walk from the parking lot into the spacious lobby, you look directly through the hotel’s glass back wall, across a stretch of white sand beach, and in the seemingly endless Gulf of Mexico.

For Alabama, whose precious few miles of beaches nearly drive the state’s tourism economy, that was the essential goal of the Gulf State Park Improvement Project: ocean views for visitors and, according to Matt Leavell, director of design and planning at the University of Alabama Center for Economic Development, “an experience of being in the dunes.”

But being in the dunes can mean a lot of things. In 2004, Hurricane Ivan swept through the dunes and destroyed the original lodge, built in the 1970s. In 2010, balls of tar washed up on the beach as oil gushed from an underwater well operated by BP after the explosion at the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig killed 11 workers. The night before the new lodge opened in 2018, while dune grass plantings were still underway, high winds blew about two feet of sand into an area between the lobby and the restaurant, and crews rushed to shovel it before the governor arrived at 8:00 a.m.

“There is something truly unique about designing a dynamic dune landscape,” says Kate Tooke, ASLA, Director of Sasaki, who did the landscape architecture work for the lodge while completing a master plan for improvements throughout the state park. “Any other landscape you design in, you can kind of assume that the landscape is going to stay mostly where it is. But a dune landscape is constantly changing. Dunes grow, they move, wetlands form and swales form in different places, and it’s part of a healthy dunescape, to have that growth and change over time. (Continued…)

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