After more than two years of being closed due to severe damage by Hurricane Sally, the pier at Orange Beach Waterfront Park is open. The 400-foot pier on Wolf Bay had to be completely rebuilt. Black Diamond Construction handled the work.
Diving into the history of the Waterfront Park, the property was first purchased from the Campbell family in late 1998. After that plans were drawn for the new park and construction began in early 1999. The park officially opened in July 2000.
The purchase of the property came the year after the Alabama Gulf Coast Area Chamber of Commerce (now known as Coastal Alabama Business Chamber) sponsored a weeklong fact-finding trip along the west coast of Florida to visit other Gulf Coast communities. The trip included city officials from Orange Beach and Gulf Shores, Baldwin County officials, business leaders and a representative of the state highway department.
The same question was posed to every community that was visited: "If you could go back 20 years in your existence, what would you do then that would impact today?"
Every community was very willing to share its growth and development plans. The one thing they all noted they would do differently was buy every piece of waterfront property they could in order control growth and also offer opportunities for residents and visitors to access the water in their communities. The construction of Waterfront Park allowed that access here in Orange Beach.
Over the years the Waterfront Park and Pier have allowed residents and visitors an opportunity to enjoy the beauty of Wolf Bay. In that time many weddings and family reunions have been hosted in the park. The first wedding to be held on the pier was that of Randy and Lori Fitzgibbons on September 29, 2000. Mother of the groom, Jeanne Fitzgibbons, became a city employee in late 2002 and shortly thereafter became the contact person for events and gatherings at Waterfront Park.
“It has been my pleasure to have some wonderful conversations with people over the years and schedule their event,” Fitzgibbons said. “I remember the planning that went into working out the details of using a 'public' place to hold a wedding. It is doable, you just have to realize the limitations and work within them.”
The pier is also the backdrop to numerous weddings held each year at the adjacent Coastal Arts Center of Orange Beach.
Through the years, Waterfront Park has served many purposes, including being home to Sail Camp from 2001 to 2003 under the leadership of the Point Yacht Club. The city took over Sail Camp in 2004 and continued using Waterfront Park through 2011. After that the program was moved to its new home at the Wind & Water Learning Center, where it continues today.
The pier was destroyed by Hurricane Sally in September of 2020, exactly 20 years after its opening. The new pier is an exact replica of the original construction with a few minor modifications that will help maintenance personnel in maintaining the structure.
In 2002, the Alabama Recreation and Parks Association recognized Waterfront Park with the Outstanding Facility Award for cities with populations under 15,000. It is noteworthy that the opening of the new pier comes exactly 20 years from the time of that award.
Life is a little better in Orange Beach now with the popular pier reopened.