Spring Break is more than just a week off from school for coastal communities in south Alabama. March and April are considered Spring Break season, according to Gulf Shores and Orange Beach Tourism.
Both cities have been preparing for visitors months in advance, focusing more on keeping the area and atmosphere family-friendly. In fact, Gulf Shores even put an alcohol ban in place on beaches during Spring Break.
As they cross the halfway mark, Orange Beach Mayor Tony Kennon said Spring Break had gone very well for the city so far.
“It’s been great,” Kennon said. “MTV has not shown up, so we’re doing really good. Very family-friendly oriented and very calm for the most part.”
The city has seen a diverse population of tourists from all over the southeast and into the Midwest. Driving around, you can see license plates from Tennessee, Illinois and even Wisconsin. Kennon said he had heard nothing but positive feedback from those coming to catch a little R&R on the Gulf Coast.
“It’s really gratifying because they’re so complimentary of the family-friendly atmosphere and how clean and safe and protected they feel,” he told 1819 News. “That makes us all feel really good because our staff goes above and beyond to help them have that type of experience.”
When it comes to traffic, travel in and around Orange Beach has always been a challenge. Because of the extra vehicles driving through, bridges over the Intercoastal Waterway often get packed. Despite several construction projects that have slowed traffic on a couple of state highways in Orange Beach, Kennon said traffic has been manageable, and he can see the light at the end of the tunnel.
“We’ve got an additional turn lane being added at the corner of 161 and 182, which is down at the beach in front of Coastal restaurant,” Kennon explained. “And on 161 east, we’re finishing up the first phase there to the U-about, as I call it, then we will be adding a third lane to Canal Road, all the way down to Wilson [Blvd].”
State Sen. Chris Elliott (R-Josephine) said he has been watching the Orange Beach projects since he was on the Baldwin County Commission six years ago.
“I am excited about the road work that the city is doing and the road work that ALDOT is doing,” Elliott told 1819 News. “And I continue to advocate for more state funding for Orange Beach and their projects, including the realignment there at 161.”
Elliott added that while there are a lot of projects going on in Baldwin County, a lot more are still in the works.
“It is never-ending,” said Elliott. “There is always a need for improvements, and we will always continue to see that happening … We are the top recipient county of state transportation dollars right now. The problem is, there needs to be more, and we need to keep being at the top of that year over year.”
With fresh seafood at local restaurants and specialty shops along the coast, Kennon said visitors have been taking advantage of all that Orange Beach has to offer, despite economic challenges nationwide.
“Considering today’s economy and considering all the concerns and doubt about what’s going on all over the country, business has really been good,” he said.”I can’t complain, and I don’t think the business owners can complain one bit about the people coming here and the amount of money they’re spending.”
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