16-0415 v3.0/Gulf State Park Interpretive Center/Interpretive Center in Coastal Floodplain


We would like to request a temporary exception to the prohibition on development within the 100 year flood plain within Imperative 1 of the Place Petal, Limits to Growth. The intent of this imperative is to curb sprawl, restore natural ecosystems, protect productive agricultural lands and ecologically sensitive areas from the negative aspects of development. 
Project Overview and Site History
The project is an Interpretive Center serving a 6,150 acre state park.  This site does not contain any wetlands, old growth forest, virgin prairie, or prime farmland. It is a previously developed greyfield, located within Transect 1.
The park has two miles of beachfront, and the Interpretive Center is sited on the beach adjacent to an existing parking lot and public pavilion. The site contained a parking lot that was destroyed by Hurricane Ivan in 2004. After Hurricane Ivan, the dunes at the state park were almost entirely flattened, and a breach was cut across the beach highway connecting the inland fresh water lakes and wetlands of the park with the Gulf of Mexico. In the reconstruction following the storm, the breach was filled and an artificial berm was constructed to protect property from future storm surge events, The berm was intended to re-create the primary dune. Unfortunately, that berm was built so high that it short circuits the natural dune formation processes, and is slowing the formation of secondary and tertiary dunes. Small scale dune restoration projects have been underway since Ivan. The park staff has engaged local schools and volunteers in stabilizing dunes with recycled Christmas trees and propagating and replanting dune grasses. The current phase of dune restoration is installing man-made cuts in the primary dune/bern to reintroduce sand into the secondary and tertiary dune systems and facilitate natural dune formation processes. Our site has not been included in restoration thus far, and has continued to be disturbed with a staff beach access road and utility enclosure. The new Interpretive Center will participate in, and interpret, the adaptive restoration of its site.
Limits to Growth Imperative Clarifications
Primary Dunes
Our restoration experts, Biohabitats, have recommended a 225’ set back from the primary dunes, or 68.6 meters. The proposed Interpretive Center Building is located per their recommendations, exceeding the 40 meter LBC setback from primary dunes. The proposed Interpretive Boardwalk does enter into the 225’ buffer zone, and one design alternative being explored extends the boardwalk through the dune cut, so visitors can see wind-borne sand flowing through to build the secondary and tertiary dunes.  We would like to use Exception l01-E6 Primary Dunes to allow for a portion of the Interpretive Boardwalk to encroach upon the 40 meter setback from primary dunes We feel that the minimal  disturbance of the boardwalk pilings is outweighed by the benefit that the close up sensory experience of dune formation in progress will offer visitors. It is our intent that the boardwalk experience in the dunes makes the Interpretive Center’s conservation message not only understandable, but memorable and personal to each visitor.
Both the Interpretive Boardwalk and the Interpretive Center will offer views into and through dunes in different stages of restoration, and the proposed pedestrian bridge will provide a broad overview of the current dunescape and the ridges of ancient dunes under the maritime forest in the larger park. All landscape associated with this project will be designed as an evolving, functioning dunescape. We intend to mimic the native plant palette found in mature dunes nearby that were protected from the worst of hurricane Ivan, and mimic the hydrology of interdunal wet and dry swales found in those mature dunes.
Coastal Flood Zone
Our site is within the AE coastal flood zone with base flood elevations of 10-11'.  The Interpretive Center will be elevated so that the bottom of structure remains a minimum of 2' above the current base flood elevation. We are also analyzing projections of sea level rise in order to understand and respond to future increases in base flood elevation for this site. The Interpretive Center is participating in the Fortified Commercial program as a pilot project. This program was created by the Institute for Home and Business Safety, and focuses on structural resiliency to natural hazards and the continuity of operations during and after natural disasters. Our resilient building strategies are an integral part of our Material Conservation Management Plan, and our approach to thermal comfort and passive survivability.  

While this project is in not in a Transect with a pre-approved exception, we would like to request a temporary exception to the Limits to Growth Imperative requirement for Floodplains. While this site is technically a L1 transect, it is served by and surrounded by existing infrastructure, and has a very public presence. Building on this particular site will allow us to meet the intent of this Imperative by telling the story of the dune restoration more effectively and memorably than any other site. It also affords us an opportunity to capture the attention of the thousands of visitors that come to this area to enjoy the beaches, make them aware of the incredibly diverse natural systems that occupy the ancient dune scape of the state park, inland from the beach itself, and demonstrate a restorative relationship between nature and the built environment.

(v3.X & v2.X)  I01-E15 Conservation Projects in the 100 Year Floodplain 
Projects in any Transect may build in the 100-year floodplain if their primary purpose is the protection, restoration, or interpretation of the surrounding ecologically sensitive areas. Project teams must provide evidence that the site's ecological systems are not negatively impacted, conservation is integral to programming, and resiliency is a foundational design element of the project. 
Exception Documentation: 
I01-a Conservation Documentation - Evidence of organization's primary purpose of protection, restoration and /or interpretation of the 100 year floodplain and any other relevant sensitive areas. 
I01-d Calculations - Calculations and drawings demonstrating the project is appropriately designed to be resilient during and after a 100 year flood.

Post ID 5424

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