This ring art is part of the South Walton Artificial Reef Association's underwater museum of art.

By John Mullen

June 27, 2019 – Orange Beach, AL – (OBA®) – David Walter at Walter Marine in Orange Beach has been involved in some impressive reef projects over the years including the sinking of the LuLu in 2013.

His company and crew have a played a small part in a Florida reef project that in just one year has created a worldwide buzz, according to South Walton Artificial Reef Association President Andy McAlexander.

Andy McAlexander of the South Walton Artificial Reef Association.“The Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County came to me with the idea a couple of years ago to create the nation’s first underwater museum of art in one of the permitted locations in the Gulf,” McAlexander said. “We thought what a fantastic idea and put out a call to artists.”

The first of the museum’s pieces went in the water, deployed by Walter Marine in spring of 2018. Accolades soon began rolling in.

“Since then it has received in advertising figures provided by the county well over $1 million in international exposure,” McAlexander said. “We were named by Time magazine as one of the top 20 things to do on the planet. We were number 12. We were named by National Geographic in the top 24 of coolest things on the planet. We’ve had the Today Show dive the site. We’ve had publications from Asia, Germany and everywhere in between publish it.

“It’s just been an international sensation.”

This month another batch of artwork went into the Gulf just off of Grayton Beach State Park, again placed there by Walter Marine.

“The museum is less than one mile off of Grayton Beach State Park,” McAlexander said. “The majority of our reefs are also between three-quarters of a mile and a mile offshore. And we have three that are between three and five miles offshore. That has been a tremendous attraction for our visitors and locals.”

The museum is just a small part of the association’s reef program. SWARA has 16 artificial zones, has deployed 690 structures and 86 different species have been identified around the reefs.

An idea emerged to make some reefs that from above look like shapes of marine life native to the Gulf off of South Walton.

“We got to thinking about the design and the visual with drones and everything coming into play,” McAlexander said. “One of my board members thought about making one of them in a dot-to-dot shape of a sea turtle. Everybody when ooh and ahh. Then we went further and did one as a seahorse, one as a grouper and one as a dolphin.”

David Walter of Orange Beach has deployed thousands of artificial reefs in the Gulf.Walter Marine has played a key role in all the deployments and will be involved in some future projects as well including some reefs designed by the company.

“In addition to the second annual museum deployment we’ll also be deploying 64 more Walter Marine structures,” McAlexander said. “We hope to do between 50 and 100 reef deployments for fishing and diving a year in perpetuity and hopefully between 10 and 12 sculptures a year in perpetuity.”

David Walter said his company is working on a reef project for Texas currently and is still building 25-foot and 10-foot pyramid reefs and deploying them for reef zones in Alabama and Florida waters. He guesses his company has deployed “thousands” of reefs over the years.

“We’re just plugging away building reefs. We’ve got about another month of it,” Walter said. “We building a bunch for Florida and we’ve built a bunch for Alabama. Then we’ve got a job to do in Texas. They’ve got a little reef over there they’ve designed and we’re building them for them.”

Alabama used a Restore grant to have more reefs deployed in the Gulf and is currently looking for another ship to sink as well, also funded by Restore money.

“I’ve got a couple of casino boats but they don’t want ‘em,” Walter said. “They want a military ship. I’m trying to find ‘em one but I haven’t been able to yet.”

To check out the GPS locations of the South Walton at the association’s website and for Alabama visit outdooralabama.com.