The Roaming Parkers have always loved Gulf Shores Alabama – affectionately known as The Emerald Coast and even, “The Redneck Riviera.” Gulf Shores has pretty much everything you need for a fantastic beach getaway, whether you want to soak in the sun, splash in the waves, paddleboard, parasail, fish, golf, hike, or whatever you like to do at the beach – Gulf Shores has it all!
But it has always been unfortunately common to find trash on the beach – cigarette butts and wrappers, bottle caps, beer cans, beach toys, even the skeletons of discarded pop-up canopies. But not this time!
When we were there a couple of weeks ago we immediately noticed the effects of the Emerald Coast Cities’ trash initiatives and conservation efforts. Not only is the area far more re-built than it has ever been since Hurricane Ivan scoured the area in 2004, but there was not a speck of litter anywhere!
We asked a local family that we met while eating a banana split at Scoops. They said that the cities of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach were reaping the benefits of restoration monies paid by BP after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and they emphasized that the Cities were taking litter and conservation seriously.
The first thing that we noticed was that the dune restoration project is doing better than we’ve ever seen it. The Emerald Coast cities have been trying for years to restore the dunes lining Beach Boulevard at the northern (inland) side of the beaches.
For as long as I can remember visiting Gulf Shores, there have been signs warning people to stay off the dunes and stay on the boardwalks to protect the native sea oats that were colonizing and stabilizing the dunes. We are accustomed to seeing the sea oats on the dunes looking patchy and sparse, but this time the dunes were positively alive with a thick cover of plantlife. We’ve been going to Gulf Shores regularly for decades and we have never seen large patches of sea oats mature enough to produce their characteristic huge brown seed heads – until now.
Another front in the conservation battle are the rows of trash and recycling receptacles that have been placed all along the beach. Every 125 feet for as far as the eye can see in both directions, posts have been driven deep into the sand and are used to anchor trash and recycling bins, so you can’t get to or from the beach without passing near one. The bins are emptied regularly.
The obvious result is that there is that there is no more trash on the beach! The entire time we were there we did not see a single bottlecap, cigarette butt, plastic wrapper, drink can, water bottle, or fishing cork – nothing but clean, white quartz sand.
Additionally, they have instituted a great rule that you cannot leave your beach umbrellas, canopies, chairs, toys, & etc on the beach past dusk and expect to find it there the next morning.
The beach patrol sweeps along the beach each night, disposing of any non-permitted structures and items, so instead of waking up and stumbling down from your condo to your pile of stuff on the beach, you will find only pristine beach.
Our new buddies at Scoops even said that area schools were offering extra credit for kids who clean trash off of beaches!
Bravo to the city governments of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach (and maybe further throughout the rest of the Emerald Coast area) for stepping up with this fantastic, multifactoral conservation effort that is making such a fantastic impact on our environment as well as their own tourism interests!