|Gulf State Park|
Location in Alabama
Gulf State Park (the United States)
|Location||Gulf Shores, Baldwin, Alabama, United States|
|Area||6,500 acres (26 km2)|
|Elevation||7 ft (2.1 m)|
|Operator||Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources|
|Website||Gulf State Park|
Gulf State Park is a public recreation area on the Gulf of Mexico in the city of Gulf Shores in southern Baldwin County, Alabama. The state park's 6,500 acres (2,600 ha) mostly encompass the land behind the Gulf Shores beach community, between Highway 59 and SH 161, with the west end extending further south to a wide beach area (see photo right). In addition to beaches, the park includes marshland, boggy tea-colored streams, pine forests, and three spring-fed, fresh-water lakes: Lake Shelby (750 acres or 300 hectares), Middle Lake, and Little Lake. The park is managed by the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, with park enforcement rangers providing around-the-clock security and enforcing anti-littering regulations.
The park's facilities, including cabins and a casino, were built in the 1930s by members of the Civilian Conservation Corps working under the auspices of the Federal government. The park opened in 1939 after ownership of the property was transferred to the state. After weathering multiple hurricanes, the park was devastated by Hurricane Ivan in 2004. Major projects undertaken in the wake of the storm saw the construction of a 1,540-foot (470 m) Gulf of Mexico fishing pier that provides 2,448 feet of fishing space, a 5,000-square-foot swimming pool and splash pad, an interactive nature center, a beach pavilion, and renovation of the campground.
In 2014, the State of Alabama announced plans to spend $85 million dollars to further renovate the park. The plans include a $56 million lodge and meeting space. The plans have been criticized on grounds that money for the project would come from Deepwater Horizon recovery funds which, critics say, should be used for continued cleanup and improvement of the coastal areas. In October 2014, a lawsuit was filed by the Gulf Restoration Network to block use of the funds for the construction of the lodge. State officials say critics misunderstand the plans.[needs update]
In September 2020, Gulf State Park was one of eleven Alabama State Parks awarded Tripadvisor’s Traveler’s Choice Award, which recognizes businesses and attractions that earn consistently high user reviews.
The park includes 2.5 miles (4.0 km) of white sand beaches, a modern campground, and nature trails, plus both fresh and saltwater fishing and swimming. 20 cabins, 11 cottages, and 496 campsites for both RVs and tents are available within the park's 11.5 square miles (29.9 km2). An 18-hole golf course includes a pro shop and snack bar. A concessionaire operates a zip-line course which opened in 2013 and offers kayak and paddleboard rentals for use on Lake Shelby.