"Turtle Tracks" by artists April Hopkins and Zach DePolo sits in the Lodge's lobby. Photo courtesy: Colette Boehm.
1. Can you describe your role as the Director of Environmental & Educational Initiatives at the Lodge at Gulf State Park?
No other hotel that I know of has this position! It was really created because of the uniqueness of this project. There were several certifications The Lodge was going for, such as LEED and SITES, so we knew that educating visitors would be a huge part of what we do here. For example, the Interpretive Center on the property is pursuing the full Living Building Challenge, which once achieved, The Center will be the first building in Alabama and one of only about 25 buildings in the world to have earned this certification.
The Interpretive Center at Gulf State Park. Photo courtesy: Gulf State Park.
2. What types of education happen at The Lodge?
We offer education about the facilities and the park itself, best practices for running a sustainable hospitality space and details about the 9 different ecosystems found in the park. There’s also a Learning Campus where we’re able to work with environmental partners to educate school groups and visitors alike.
We also help guests at the main Lodge understand how to best protect all the wildlife in our shared space. I think anyone’s first instinct when coming across a cool sea turtle on the beach at night is to want to take a picture. Unfortunately, phone camera flashes and flashlights can blind a mother turtle trying to nest, and she'll go back into the water without laying her eggs. Sometimes she’ll try again, but she might also just drop the eggs in the Gulf if disturbed — and we lose those eggs. To mitigate this risk, we offer red flashlight filters to guests at the front desk to make the light less distracting to the turtles and also teach them about the importance of not disturbing the nesting process.