MOBILE – Foley will be adding a large amount of property to the city’s Graham Creek Nature Preserve, greatly increasing the size of what is already one of the largest municipal environmental centers in Alabama.

Mayor Ralph Hellmich said the grant will be a major benefit for the city and environmental protection.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity for us to expand the Graham Creek Nature Park and to increase the quality of life for our citizens,” Hellmich said. “This is a significant improvement for Foley and for our work to protect the Wolf Bay area.”

The Graham Creek Preserve is now about 660 acres. The grant will allow the city to purchase the additional acreage to add to the current preserve.

The goal of the land use will be conservation with habitat restoration and management as well as some public access in the future for passive recreation.

The Graham Creek Nature Preserve, located near Wolf Creek Drive in southeast Foley, now includes 10 miles of hiking trails, two handicap-accessible boardwalks, a kayak launch and four disc golf courses.

Governor Kay Ivey announced Friday that the city will receive $5 million in state funding through the national Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act. The grant was included in $67 million in state funding announced for the program this year.

Ivey and Commissioner of Conservation and Natural Resources Chris Blankenship announced a total of 27 new projects for Mobile and Baldwin counties.

“These new projects will ensure that Coastal Alabama remains a place of beauty that our people will be able to enjoy these beautiful places for years to come,” Ivey said. “Working closely with Commissioner Blankenship, I’m pleased today to report that over $67 million have been allocated to fund projects to further protect this region and provide quality accessibility to the rivers, bays and other waterways in South Alabama.”

Since the program began, Alabama has received about $181 million in GoMESA funds. 

Hellmich said that money has helped many communities make environmental improvements.

“I could sit here and go down the list from Daphne to Mobile to Foley and what everyone has established. It has been incredible,” Hellmich said. “It has been a game changer from the environmental side. We all are very much stewards in Mobile and Baldwin counties of our environment. And I think that the goal of everyone in this room is to make it better to preserve the way of life that we all are for.”

The GOMESA program shares revenues from offshore oil and gas leases in the Gulf of Mexico with four participating states, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas.

Hellmich said the program was the result of efforts by state and local officials to bring offshore oil and gas revenue to local communities.

“It took many years for that to come into fruition,” Hellmich said. “It took a team effort with the legislators. It took a team effort with state government and everybody to get that into effect. It is a game changer.”