Baldwin County, Alabama is home to one of the most beautiful parks in our state: Gulf State Park. This park’s popularity brings in more than 2 million visitors a year to enjoy amenities such as the campgrounds, trails, nature center, and the beaches (of course!). In 2013, a multi-year facelift, The Gulf State Enhancement Project, began on the park. The goal is to make the park more accessible to visitors as well as expand its impact on the environment and local economy. One of the key pieces of this project includes the development of the Interpretive Center.

What is so unique about this building is that it received certification as a “Living Building.” What does that mean? Besides being one of only 16 in the world and one of three in the U.S. to have met the rigorous expectations, the Interpretive Center gives back to the environment. It does this by connecting users to nature, relying on resources produced by and around the building, and produces more energy than it uses. One of the coolest features that meets the requirement of the challenge is turning rain water into a potable water source.

How can you take advantage of everything this unique space has to offer? The center includes an amphitheater for educational programming, an air-conditioned space for community groups, and a fully accessible sand play area in the middle of the active dune system. It’s also connected to the Gulf State Park’s 28-mile trail system via a pedestrian bridge, allowing you full access to 6,150 acres of everything this part of Alabama has to offer, including 2.5 miles of protected beaches.

Make a visit to the new Gulf State Park Interpretive Center this year. You will come away with a new appreciation for our beautiful ecosystem!