Orange Beach had a swearing in for three new police officers on Dec. 5. From left are Assistant Chief Steve Brown, new Officer Michael McBrayer, new Officer John Paul Burnside, Chief Joe Fierro, City Judge Brackin and new Officer Alex Monce.
By John Mullen
December 7, 2017 – Orange Beach, AL (OBA) – The city is pursuing RESTORE Act money to fund a sea lab and research center at property on Terry Cove east of Sportsman Marina and Pleasure Island Tiki Bar.
In other business, the council announced a new loop to the Backcountry Trail near the Sportsplex, said it is seeking bids on the refurbishing of the Sea Duster 1930s era charter fishing boat, and authorized Kennon to negotiate the purchase of property near the police station.
On the RESTORE Act project, Kennon said several universities and the Dauphin Island Sea Lab have all expressed interest in the lab. It is just one of several projects totaling about $50 million the city is seeking RESTORE Act money to complete.
“We really feel excited,” he said. “We may have a major research center on our property. We had $9 million in the request in the RESTORE Act for our research center and that has a very good chance of happening. We’ve had great meetings with multiple universities that are very interested in seeing that property coming into research in University of Alabama, Auburn and the Sea Lab."
The property is where the former Walker Marina once operated and still has a boat basin. Kennon said plans are to develop a marina to have docking space for research vessels.
Currently, there is a dog park and Frisbee golf course on the land.
Backcountry Trail
The Backcountry Trail Interpretive Loop, east of the Sportsplex and south of Lauder Lane was authorized to be built with grant money from the Alabama Department of Economic Affairs. The entire cost of the project is $157,825 with the city providing a match of $41,000.
“It will join the Backcountry Trail near the twin bridges near the Sportsplex and goes around the lake,” City Administrator Ken Grimes said. (See map at the bottom of the story.)
Councilman Jeff Boyd asked if this was the same project as the extension from the end of West Oak Ridge Drive to the Backcountry Trail.
“Those are different projects,” Community Development Director Kit Alexander said. “We have the easements recorded, we have some wetlands we need to determine and probably some wetland permitting. We have some cost issues on whether we’re going to build boardwalks or not. But we plan to do it next year.”
Sea Duster
The city is also seeking bids for the restoration of the historic charter fishing vessel, the Sea Duster. Kennon says plans are to refurbish it in the image of Ernest Hemingway’s famous Pilar.
“Nowadays people are trying to tear down monuments,” Kennon said. “We want to build one. We don’t know what the final costs will be but it will be expensive. It is a wooden boat. We want to make it look brand new like it did in 1937.
“We’ve got one of the last remaining original Orange Beach charter boats. I think it’s going to be a conversation piece, I think it’s going to fit in with our eco tours, corporate retreats. We have a lot of ideas.”
Initially, the Sea Duster was built for Rufus Walker Sr. on Terry Cove from black cypress. Construction started in 1935 and finished in 1936 by Joe Pierce from Bon Secour.
Justice center land buy
According to Kennon, the city has made an offer of $2.4 million for the 5.4 acres. “It gives us a chance to carve out piece for the police department and give them a chance for expansion as needed,” he said. “And whatever seems to be appropriate at the time.”
Rouse’s supermarket twice tried to use the property for a new store in Orange Beach but the traffic problems city leaders believed it would cause at Alabama 161 and Canal Road hamstrung the project.
The council is also considering buying 18 acres on Russian Road north of the Intracoastal Waterway. The city is offering $275,000 for the land.
“This is 18 acres that’s dry which is not bad,” Kennon said. “We’re having a hard time finding large, dry property.”
On Dec. 5, the council also:
• Saw new police officers Michael McBrayer, Alex Monce and John-Paul Burnside sworn into duty by City Judge Buddy Brackin.
• Tabled a resolution authorizing the transfer of City property to Baldwin County Board of Education for a new school at the old wastewater treatment plant site. The council will address the issue again on Dec. 12, the final meeting of 2017.
• Passed a resolution authorizing the Mayor to execute service orders with UnitiFiber for existing Perdido Beach Boulevard traffic signals. UnitiFiber (formerly Southern Light) replacing Ethernet connections between traffic signals to dark fiber.
• Authorized a three-year contract with Callback Staffing for scheduling services in the fire department after the company said monthly fees would increase if a long-term contract wasn’t signed.
• Passed a resolution to pay Shazam Interactive $1,900 a month for website development, social media strategies, training and staff support for digital marketing. The company is required to provide 40 hours of work per month expanding the city’s social media footprint.
The Backcountry Trail Interpretive Loop.