‘Living Laboratory’: USA Foundation Donates Bayfront Property to South

Posted on September 6, 2023
Lance Crawford


The University of South Alabama Foundation has donated more than a quarter mile of bayfront to the University, opening additional access for teaching and research, officials announced at a news conference today.

The property is on Dauphin Island’s Aloe Bay, 35 miles south of the University of South Alabama campus. The Foundation valued the gift, which includes sandy beachfront, marsh and submerged land, at $1.92 million.

“It’s a perfect living laboratory,” said USA Foundation Managing Director Maxey J. Roberts. “The Foundation board believes that this will assist and advance the research for, specifically, the Stokes School of Marine and Environmental Sciences, but also programs in the College of Engineering as engineering looks at coastline restoration and protection.”

The Foundation has owned the land for approximately 35 years with the intention of eventually giving it to the University.

“It’s going to have an immediate impact on our ability to teach our students,” said University of South Alabama President Jo Bonner. “It’s really a gift that ties into the mission of the University, with our role in serving the community in doing research and in teaching.”

The Town of Dauphin Island intends to dredge the Aloe Bay channel to a developed area just south of the Dauphin Island bridge. The dredged sand will be used to extend the beach area of the property up to 150 feet into the bay, back to its historical shoreline.

“We’re really appreciative of the USA Foundation having the vision to pass this land on to the University,” said Dr. Sean Powers, director of the Stokes School of Marine and Environmental Sciences. “Our plan for this piece of property after the restoration is to hold as much of it as possible in a preserve. It will really be the island’s first preserve right on the water’s edge.”

The Stokes School of Marine and Environmental Sciences offers two undergraduate degrees and four graduate degree programs. Education and research facilities are located both on campus in Mobile and at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab, of which the University is a consortium member.  

On the donated land, Powers said, the uplands will be restored to their natural salt marsh state while oyster reefs will be installed just off the shoreline. Sand will be placed beyond the reefs, offering a double layer of protection for the shoreline. The shallow- water environment allows students a safe area to work.

“We’re grateful that we have a Foundation whose sole interest is in advancing the University of South Alabama,” Bonner said. “It’s a great partnership, and the best is yet to come.”

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