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The Lodge at Gulf State Park

Putting sustainable tourism in the right light
Gulf Shores, Alabama
Lighting Designer
Lang Lighting Design


When Ketra established its commitment to create light that promotes a sense of wellbeing and connection to nature, human needs and natural light were top of mind. But thanks to sustainable tourism innovator, The Lodge at Gulf State Park, Ketra is also playing a role in sustaining endangered wildlife by protecting the nesting habits and hatching environment of Alabama’s gulf coast sea turtles.

Note: This installation was powered by a legacy KetraNet control solution. Modern Lutron control solutions do not support applications of this type.


Dangerous Misdirection

Artificial lighting near the shore — often resulting from land development — is a serious problem for these ocean-dwellers. Maternal turtles who come ashore to lay their eggs are unable to find a quiet, dark place on the beach to nest. The problem only worsens once the baby turtles hatch. After freeing themselves from their shells, hatchlings must make the often perilous journey from their nesting place back to the ocean. One of their natural guideposts is the whitish-blue reflection of moonlight on the water near the shore. Any artificial light nearby — especially with cool tones — can cause the hatchlings to become disoriented and wander inland instead of reaching the sea.

To prevent that sad fate from befalling its local turtle population, The Lodge needed a lighting solution that would illuminate their entire exterior without disrupting the turtle habitat. The answer turned out to be Ketra’s full spectrum tunable lighting. Since the red portion of the spectrum emits long wavelengths over a narrower portion of the visible light spectrum, colors in that range are much better for the sea turtles. Referencing guidelines from the Florida Wildlife Commission (FWC), Ketra lamps being used onsite are specified at 580 nanometers, a warm blood orange. The overhang that is perpendicular to the beach is lit by Ketra’s D3 Downlight, which is installed in tall ceilings and recessed to limit light bleed. Lighting along the beach front directly faces the water and thus requires a more controlled solution: a fully shielded and downward-directed Ketra S38 lamp.

“Ketra was chosen to work towards our conservation efforts for the turtles, but the capabilities for our human guests are a bonus. We love to change the lighting scenes in our meeting rooms selecting colors for different groups or dimming the lighting in the restaurant space to create a warm atmosphere. The functionality is great.”

-David Arnold, Director of Engineering, The Lodge at Gulf State Park

A Win-Win Solution

But the turtles aren’t the only ones enjoying Ketra lighting. Robert Stoney, Director of Sustainability at the property, explains that the low level, warm lighting is better for their human guests in the evening as well. “Guests are always curious why the lighting is a bit different at night, so we explain that not only does the warm, long-wavelength light help the sea turtles, it’s also beneficial for humans as a natural cue that helps prepare the body for sleep. It helps reinforce our goal of being responsible for our surrounding environment and ensuring an incredible guest experience.”


Project photography by Chandra Wright.

A Shining Star in Sustainable Tourism

Unique in its commitment to sustainable tourism, The Lodge at Gulf State Park was carefully planned, built and now operated to adhere to the three pillars of sustainable tourism: environmentally friendly operations and facilities, support for the protection of cultural and natural heritage, and direct and tangible social and economic benefits to local people. In addition to the Ketra lighting that protects the turtle habitat, other sustainability features include:

  • Onsite cleaning and filtering of all water displaced by site development. Storm water from the Lodge roofs and paving is naturally filtered and absorbed through functional wetland, rather than being diverted to a sewer
  • Construction waste reclamation, with 70-75% of the project’s construction waste being recycled instead of going into a landfill
  • The innovative Bycatch Seafood Program, which helps local fishermen sell any unintentional species caught, by purchasing this bycatch and serving it in The Lodge’s restaurants

Not only is The Lodge itself LEED Gold, it also holds the distinction of being the only hospitality project in the world to hold SITES Platinum certification. Securing this certification requires both a commitment to preserving the natural landscape and a robust education program. To meet the latter, the Lodge operates a full time Learning Campus that offers continuing education about how to minimize human impact on the environment. Finally, The Lodge has minimized light pollution in their parking lots and site space to ensure the sky is truly dark at night, earning it compliance with the requirements for dark sky approval from the International Dark-Sky Association.

In addition to the lodging portion of the property, the grounds also feature a Nature Center, an Interpretive Center — which has been described as “Alabama’s most environmentally friendly building” — and a Learning Campus, as well as nine different ecosystems with trails ready to be explored. It’s the perfect place to connect with nature, which has been one of Ketra’s goals from the very start.

Visit The Lodge at Gulf State Park for more information about the possibilities of sustainable tourism. And learn more about another project where Ketra has supported a powerful connection with wellness and nature in this case study.

Products Used

D3 Downlight
S38 Lamp
N4 Hub
N3 Satellite
X2 Keypad

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