The Gulf Coast Center for Ecotourism & Sustainability is a world-class ecotourism and experiential learning facility that will be constructed on City property using RESTORE funds, an allocation of penalties related to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill that is reserved for restoring and protecting the natural resources of the Gulf Coast.
The facility will include a great hall and dining area, educational classrooms and outdoor learning spaces, organic gardens and greenhouses, learning laboratories, housing for instructors, interactive sustainability infrastructure, ropes courses and team-building areas, accessible trails and pathways, and administrative offices. We are partnering with the Alabama-based firms, Architecture Worksout of Birmingham andWatershedout of Fairhope, in our efforts to design and date the latest technology in sustainable building design as part of the program experience.
The project is being developed in partnership with Gulf State Park, Valor Hospitality, Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ocean Futures Society, Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism, local school systems, and various other environmental and ecotourism entities in the region. Programming will include overnight camps in the Spring and Fall based on Ocean Futures Society’s “Ambassadors of the Environment,” a world-renowned experiential learning program dedicated to engaging people of all ages with their natural and cultural environment. This unique program is an active, hands-on outdoor experience developed over the last 15 years by Jean-Michel Cousteau, Dr. Richard Murphy, and the education team at Ocean Futures Society. The inaugural Gulf Coast Ambassadors of the Environment program will be offered in March 2020 to students in grades 4-12, and will be housed at the Gulf State Park Learning Campus.
The curriculum, designed in collaboration with the Gulf Shores State Park Nature Center, will focus on beach ecology, environmental conservation, and sustainability in nature and communities. Students will participate in field studies and ecological restoration activities in the State Park and Gulf Shores area, as well as team-building exercises, kayaking, hiking, organic gardening and much more.
Other programs will include day programs for local school groups and Gulf Coast tourists and visitors, weekend retreats, arts & ecology summer camps, family camps, and special events, workshops, and festivals. The Center will also engage universities and industry groups throughout the region to establish partnerships and develop programs that will support the economy and enhance the quality of life along the Gulf Coast.