Gulf Shores mayor says he's expecting oil on beaches this week


by Doug Mouton / Eyewitness News

Posted on June 2, 2010 at 6:10 PM

Updated Wednesday, Jun 2 at 6:13 PM

GULF SHORES, Ala. -- The mayor of Gulf Shores, Alabama said Wednesday he expects oil on his beaches soon.

Rust colored oil is now on Dauphin Island, near the mouth of Mobile Bay.

Along the Gulf Coast, beach reservations are quickly turning into cancellations, and a hard reality is setting in.

"It is going to be a rough summer regardless of how much oil we get on the shore," Mayor Robert Craft said Wednesday, "because the perception of the world is, we're a hazardous waste dump."

There were many people enjoying the beaches of Gulf Shores Wednesday. Mayor Craft said many of them came for Memorial Day weekend and are finishing out their stays. He expects the financial hit to set in this weekend.

"It is the Saturday check-in group that has fallen away almost completely," Craft said.

There were some families on the beach that buck that trend.

"We came in today," Patsy Metz of Morgan City said Wednesday. "We've had these rooms booked for quite awhile and we had thoughts of canceling and then we said no, we're going as a family. We're going to keep our rooms and support the Gulf Coast."

Metz is in Gulf Shores with her daughters and their families. Tourism leaders say that's their typical market in Gulf Shores.

"We have a lot of families who have come down to our beach generation after generation, and they are loyal to us," said Kim Chapman, the public relations director for Gulf Shores / Orange Beach Tourism.

4.6 million visitors spent $2.3 billion in Baldwin County in 2009, but much of that money is earned over the summer months, which could be lean this year.

But that generational support is why leaders in Gulf Shores believe, when the BP oil spill mess is all over, they can recover. But Craft said they need help now.

Gulf Shores has roughly 16,000 rental units ran by 48 management companies. Most are family owned operations, as are many business around Gulf Shores. The mayor said those businesses need immediate financial help from BP to make it through this difficult summer, because he believes oil is eventually coming to his beaches.

"I think we will have oil on our beaches," Craft said, "probably this week, based on the fact that we have tarballs and oil on the beach at Dauphin Island and that will make its way this way."

Craft said he has a beach cleanup plan ready, but with oil continuing to spew out of the broken wellhead in the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico, he doesn't know how many times he'll need to use it.