Friday, April 28, 2017

Governments buying Islands

USA: Alabama City Aims to Purchase Two Local Islands for Conservation

A small resort city along Alabama’s beautiful Gulf Coast is once again joining the global trend of governments and conservancies buying private islands.

(Perdido Pass near Orange Beach, Alabama)

Two private islands just offshore of the Alabama resort community of Orange Beach have been targeted for purchase by the city, potentially for both recreational and conservation purposes, according to local media reports. For this particular city, owning a private island would actually be nothing new – in 2003, Orange Beach spent US $4,300,000 on nearby Robinson Island, which hosts a thriving nesting ground for herons and is now an invaluable public park and marine education center.

The two new properties of interest for Orange Beach are Walker and Gilchrist islands; one is owned by a local businessman, the other by a Louisiana resident. Both are found within a scenic Gulf Coast inlet known as Perdido Pass, which sits roughly on the border between Alabama and Florida. The islands are so far completely undeveloped, making them important conservation targets – in fact, saving Robinson Island from the threat of development was a prime motivation for the city’s purchase.

Orange Beach certainly seems interested in the two islands, but the city’s plans are far from concrete, at least right now. In an interview prior to the town council meeting to discuss the islands, Mayor Tony Kennon had a colorful take on the purchase idea, according to an article at blog.al.com. “It all revolves around, ‘I don’t know how pretty the dress is until I see the price,” he said. “That’s the sort of way I look at this. I think we’re trying to get the preliminary details and numbers on the table so that we can have an educated discussion.”

(Gilchrist Island by Bill Starling/blog.al.com)

The coastal resource manager for the city, Phillip West, was quoted by the article as saying that purchasing private islands to put them into public hands has long been on the agenda. In fact, for at least 10 years the idea has “been on the radar screen”, he said, for the purpose putting the islands under a management plan that will guide conservation, habitat restoration and public usage.

At the recent meeting, the Orange Beach city council voted to obtain a professional appraisal of the two islands, at a combined cost of $11,000, which will be paid for with a National Fish & Wildlife Foundation Grant. The decision about whether to move forward on buying the islands will not be taken lightly, according to Mayor Kennon. “There’s so many variables: what the price is, what the value is, what value it is to the community, what does it mean to us,” he said. “There’s just a lot to be discussed.”

Read more about this story: Blog.Al.Com

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