GULF SHORES, Al. —Today, Gulf Restoration Network (GRN) settled a lawsuit against the Alabama Trustee Implementation Group (Trustees), the group in charge of administering Natural Resource Damages (NRD) that are flowing to the state after the BP Disaster. GRN brought the suit to challenge the Trustees’ approval of the Gulf State Park Enhancement Project that proposed to use NRD funds to build a lodge and conference center.
In their most recent decision, the Trustees allocated $58.5 million to the Gulf State Park Enhancement project. Approximately $48 million of that funding was for the construction of a lodge and conference center. Only $10 million was for the construction of public access amenities at the park.
GRN’s settlement with the Trustees will ensure that the State spends $65 million specifically to maintain and operate public access amenities at Gulf State Park over the next 20 years.
"This settlement guarantees that public dollars will go to ensuring better public access to Alabama beaches. That's what was supposed to happen in the first place,” said attorney Robert Wiygul, who represented GRN. “In case anybody missed the message, if you try to spend natural resource damage money on things like hotels or convention centers, we will take you to court."
Under the settlement the state of Alabama has agreed to dedicate funding to maintain specific public access amenities at the Gulf State Park, including dune maintenance, free parking, public trails, a pedestrian path, research and education facilities, and a free tram system. At the already constructed Lodge, the State will maintain an interpretive lobby, public access to lobby restrooms, and public beach access from the lodge, The settlement also prevents the State from building a north south connector road through Gulf State Park over the next 20 years.
“This is a huge win for Alabamians,” said Cynthia Sarthou, Executive Director of GRN. “At a time when the state is closing parks and cutting services, this settlement guarantees that BP disaster funds will go towards providing free beach and park access to Alabama residents for the next 20 years.”
To read the full settlement, click here.
Founded in 1994, Gulf Restoration Network is a nonprofit focused on empowering people to protect and restore the natural resources of the Gulf of Mexico region.