Construction on a boat launch, unique to the gulf coast, is well underway in Orange Beach. The Launch at ICW broke ground in June and is on pace to be finished next February. It’s located on the Intracoastal Waterway on the northwest side of the Orange Beach Toll Bridge and is being built to address a growing need in the county.
Forty-five days into construction, The Launch at ICW is 40 acres of dirt, but taking shape nicely. A gravel bed had been put down on the parking area and while heavy equipment shapes the land, on the water, the turning basin is also being dredged out. McElhenney Construction from Mobile was the low bidder on the project at just over $9 million dollars.
“We have made really good progress. We’re about forty-five days in and right now, we’re on schedule,” said Baldwin County Engineer, Joey Nunnally. “Contractor’s keeping everything going despite having a lot of rain and a couple tropical storm activities, so he’s doing really good.”
When the Baldwin County Commission decided to do the project, it searched the gulf coast for similar designs, but could find none. The size and amenities of this launch will make it one-of-a-kind for the region.
When complete, the park will accommodate 152 vehicles with trailers and an additional 130 parking spaces. There will be six boat ramps. Two of them will be designed to accommodate larger boats. Multiple, covered picnic areas and a grand pavilion with restrooms will also be built.
“In the future, over here where you see the pine trees, the plan is to do some walking trails over there,” Nunnally said, pointing to the east side of the property. “That didn’t make this phase but that will be in future phases.”
A kayak launch could also be part of future development. Boating traffic in Baldwin County, and particularly around Orange Beach continues to increase and this launch is seen by area boaters as a much-needed addition.
“A lot of people don’t worry about the tourists that come with their boats but when I see them coming down the Beach Express every weekend, it’s like they’re going to have a hard time trying to find a place to put in,” explained fishing guide, Capt. Darrell Combs. “The ramps at Orange Beach are always full. You don’t get there by 8:00 o’clock in the morning, you’re not going to find a spot, and this is just going to be quite an asset to our community.”
The cost of the project being split by the state and the county, with the funds coming from the GOMESA offshore energy lease payments. The county will be responsible for ongoing maintenance costs.