Baldwin County beaches are set to open Friday, October 2, 2020 and it’s taken a lot of cleaning in a short amount of time to get there. Only about a quarter of the storm debris around Gulf Shores has been cleared but priority was put on the beach and main thoroughfares. It’s work that had to be done before businesses can open up for visitors.
The Beach House Kitchen and Cocktails is one of the lucky ones. Escaping Hurricane Sally with minimal impact, the owners were able to open for local business quickly. While they’ve fared better than most, the last several weeks have still been a struggle.
“September, October are still really busy,” owner of The Beach House Kitchen and Cocktails, Erika Sexton said of a normal year. “The weather’s still beautiful, so with Hurricane Sally of course, with everything emptying out and people losing everything and not really knowing what the future holds, it is exciting to know that we’re going to have tourists back down.”
It was a picturesque day on the beach Wednesday, the clear water and white sands ready to welcome back visitors in two days. A priority was put on that area for obvious reasons. The beach draws the tourists, who feed the economic engine. Inland cleaning has been a steady grind. By Wednesday afternoon, Gulf Shores City Engineer, Mark Acreman estimates 80,000 cubic yards has already been picked up…barely a quarter of the total.
“It’s about four thousand dump trucks worth of material, so we’ve got seven city trucks and ten contractor trucks running every day from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.,” Acreman said.
That debris is being brought to a staging area adjacent to the airport. It’s being picked up and separated according to what it is. The vegetation is then mulched before being taken to a landfill.
Many are eager to visit Gulf Shores once the checkpoint is lifted, but city officials warn visitors to keep their guard up.
“Just be extra careful because this is an ongoing process. It’s not complete yet and there’s bound to be some debris,” Acreman explained. “Even after you remove debris from a site, they may have more inside that they haven’t discovered yet and they’ll bring it out to the roadside so anybody that’s coming in this weekend, it’s going to be beautiful weather, hope to have a great time but also be careful. Watch where you step and just be mindful. We’re still in cleanup mode right now in the city.”
Even though the city has done its best to clean the sand, there could still be some small yet dangerous pieces of debris like shell and wood or glass shards in the sand.
The City of Gulf Shores, Orange Beach and Fort Morgan will reopen beaches at 6 a.m. on October 2, 2020.
However, most public beach access points will remain closed until further notice due to safety concerns. These include:
West Gulf Place
West 5th Street
West 6th Street
West 10th Street
West 12th Street
West 13th Street
Little Lagoon Pass Park
Gulf State Park
Gulf State Park Pier
Gulf State Park Pavilion
Beach access at Perdido Beach Blvd. and State Park Road 2
Alabama Point (including under Perdido Pass Bridge) and Alabama Point East
These extended closures of public access areas are strictly due to safety concerns. Repairs to boardwalks and other damaged areas will take place as quickly as possible. Reopening of access points and parking lots should begin in mid-October as soon as they are fully repaired and deemed safe.