Just as it was important 10 years ago, so it is today - having access to our coastlines is something about which people care deeply. In the "Human Uses" section of the first CCMP, the original focus was to expand camping and recreational facilities and awareness of those sites. As it was in the "first round," providing more opportunities to access the very ecosystem they value most and educating them about their surroundings is critical to establishing a connection between the public and the environment. It will illuminate the lasting impacts human disturbance and alteration have on our sensitive ecosystems. A balance that must be reached when people and nature come together, and the issue of trash in and around our waterways again appears as as top concern. Access is an important component of coastal protection because the more connected people are to the resources, the more they will value and protect it.
There are many venues providing access to our coastal environment, including Gulf State Park, Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge, Weeks Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, Robinson Island, Orange Beach Canoe/Kayak Trail & Waterfront Park, Five Rivers Delta Resource Center, and various municipal waterfront parks. All support the public's desire to access nature. However, some, due to their location adjacent to privately-owned properties, provide limited public use, and there are others in disrepair or scarcely used. The 2013-2018 strategies address expanding access to include a broader range of natural experiences and maintenance for existing access points. Increases in public access, while achieving a delicate balance with nature, will require adequare funding and implementation of fair and reasonable regulatory practices. The new CCMP sets forth clear actions to address these issues based on successful models already in practice in other areas.