Defense Department considers military resort on Dauphin Island
The Department of Defense is considering building a resort on Dauphin Island for active duty and retired military personnel, according to town officials and documents circulated among members of the island’s property owners association.
The Pentagon has a number of similar facilities scattered around the country, typically designed to appeal to service members and their families, offering reduced rental rates compared to commercial establishments.
Representatives from the defense department have visited the island twice, studying the possibilities, island mayor Jeff Collier said. The next step, he said, is for the government to conduct a cost-benefit analysis.
“We’ve heard all this talk from politicians about getting this BP fine money and using it for this and that on the Gulf Coast. Well, none of that has happened,” Collier said. “This is a potential way for the island to attract some new visitors and provide a little rest and relaxation for the people out there risking their lives for all of us every day.”
For years, the U.S. Coast Guard maintained a popular group of cabins on the island for use by active duty members and their families. The Coast Guard cabins were destroyed by Hurricanes Ivan and Katrina, said Bruce Jones, Property Owners Association president, leading to a reduction in the number of visitors on the island.
“There has been a lot of interest in getting something similar back. What we are looking at now is a little broader,” Jones said. “The Armed Forces Recreation Center would perhaps be bigger, with better amenities.”
Isle Dauphine golf course might come into play
Jones said the Isle Dauphine golf course, owned by the association, might come into play, along with other land owned by the group.
Documents circulated among the property owners suggest the facility might be created through a partnership between the town of Dauphin Island and a private entity that together would “finance, construct and operate the AFRC hotel/recreation complex.”
The documents propose using a number of beachfront parcels adjacent to the golf course and owned by the island residents.
Jones said a majority of the association’s board members favored going forward with the project.
There are some members opposed, he said.
Some members contacted the Press-Register anonymously and expressed reservations about losing access to the golf course, as well as other concerns.
“Bottom line, our golf course needs more players,” Jones said, discussing the cost of running the club. “We’re looking into going forward for the good of the island and the good of the course. The defense department might come with a proposal we love. Or maybe with one we’ll not like at all.”
Collier said any facility that came to the island would have to fit in with existing building codes — which prohibit the giant multi-story condos and hotels seen on other Gulf of Mexico beaches.
He said island officials had provided information that the Department of Defense requested, including a list of available amenities, such as charter boats, fishing guides, golf courses, tennis courts, boat ramps, restaurants, public parks and the beach facilities.
“If we can do something to bring economic development to the island, bolster our local businesses and do something for our military men and women, how much better can it get?” Collier said.
“We’re at the point of wading in slowly to see what they are thinking. We are not committed to anything so far, and neither is the Department of Defense. There will be plenty of time for considering our options.”