GULF SHORES, Ala. – The Gulf State Park Pier will soon close to visitors as the park begins an exciting $2.4 million renovation project that will modernize one of the Gulf Coast’s top attractions.
The Gulf State Park Pier will undergo a major renovation that includes replacing the wooden decking and handrails of the 10-year-old landmark, creating a new observation deck and installing turtle-friendly lighting. At the octagon located on the south end of the pier, a new 50-by-18-foot elevated observation deck will be constructed above the existing pier deck, which will give visitors approximately 850 additional square feet of viewing-space.
The new decking, built with sustainably sourced Ipe (pronounced ee-pay) boards, is designed to hold up for decades against the exposure to saltwater, wind and rain. The new observation desk will be equipped with an elevator, making it handicap-accessible. The project will also include refurbishing the offices, restrooms, concession area and bait shop on the pier.
The pier is expected to be closed to the public beginning May 11 through mid-July.
“Visiting the Gulf State Park Pier is almost a rite of passage for people who come to Gulf Shores,” said Chris Blankenship, Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. “Because it is such an important part of our park, we are absolutely dedicated to maintaining the pier and ensuring it is safe and accessible to our many thousands of guests. We also want to make it is as environmentally friendly as possible for sea turtles and other wildlife.”
The project was approved and funded by the Natural Resource Damage Assessment Program, Alabama Trustee Implementation Group. Commissioner Blankenship represents the State of Alabama on this group.
The Gulf State Park Pier is one of the longest on the Gulf Coast. It is 20 feet wide and provides 2,448 feet of fishing space.
“While the timing of the renovation isn’t ideal, it’s good to know that this needed renovation work will allow local anglers to continue using the pier for years to come,” said David Thornton, a local angler and expert on fishing at the pier.
The contractor on the project is M.D. Thomas, an Orange Beach-based company. “It’s fantastic for a local company to perform this needed and essential work to one of the Gulf Coast’s iconic attractions,” said Gary Ellis, Director of Community Relations and Administration at Gulf State Park.
The park will provide progress updates on its social media accounts, including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Gulf State Park Pier Renovations FAQ
What is happening?
The Gulf State Park Pier will undergo a major renovation that includes replacing the structure’s wooden decking and railings, as well as installing new turtle-friendly lighting, building a new observation deck, and refurbishing office, bathroom, concession and bait shop areas of the pier.
When will this happen?
Construction will close the pier from May 11 through mid-July, meaning the pier is expected to be closed to the public for approximately two months.
Why is the renovation needed?
The existing pine decking and handrails are approximately 10 years old and are in need of repair and replacement. The new decking and handrails will consist of panels made of sustainably sourced Ipe (pronounced ee-pay), a hardwood product that is naturally resistant to rot, abrasion, weather and insects. The use of Ipe should increase the structure’s life expectancy, which should translate into cost savings because it won’t have to be replaced as often. In addition, the panels can be removed and stored, which is a major safety feature for the inevitable arrival of a hurricane on the Gulf Coast.
How much will the project cost?
The renovation cost is $2.4 million and is being funded by the Natural Resource Damage Assessment Program, Alabama Trustee Implementation Group. Conservation Commissioner Chris Blankenship represents the State of Alabama on this group.
Why is the renovation needed now?
The permitting process was complicated, as officials paid special attention to environmental concerns, especially with the project’s potential impact on sea turtles and other wildlife. That process pushed the work to the spring and summer instead of the preferred off-peak winter months. The new lighting — in the parking lot and on the pier — will be “turtle friendly” and will eliminate any adverse impact caused by the current lighting.
Will anything new be added?
Yes. The renovation includes construction of a 50-by-18-foot observation deck that will be elevated 10 feet, 6 inches above the existing octagon at the south end of the pier. The new deck will add about 850 square feet of additional viewing space for pier visitors. An elevator will allow the deck to be handicap accessible.
In addition, upgrades will be made to the fish cleaning station that should make life easier for anglers who use the pier for fishing.