In 2017, the City of Gulf Shores purchased 836 acres of critical habitat in the Bon Secour River watershed with funding from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund. The purpose of the Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund is to support projects that remedy harm to natural resources resulting from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. This allowed the City to create two new nature preserves - the Oyster Bay Nature Preserve and the Emmet O. and Vina Wenzel Wetland Preserve. By creating these preserves, there will be no future development possible.
The purpose of the project is to protect, restore, and preserve a large area of critical natural habitat, and provide for passive recreation and education opportunities such as nature trails, kayak launches, and wetland boardwalks. This conservation effort will also improve water quality in the Bon Secour and Mobile Bay watersheds. Additional funding of $1.4M was awarded by NFWF for habitat restoration activities to be part of a future funding agreement based on the final Management Plan.