By DAVID RAINER

Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

If you’ve ever watched a show on HGTV called “Tiny House Hunters,” then you have an idea of what visitors to Meaher State Park will experience when they rent one of the park’s new ultra-efficient cabins.

This week, Alabama State Parks, the Eastern Shore Chamber of Commerce and the City of Spanish Fort, held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the latest improvements at Meaher, which sits at water’s edge on the north end of Mobile Bay, on the Battleship Parkway in Spanish Fort.

Two new rental cabins, Redfish Retreat and Catfish Cabin, were unveiled at the ceremony, and it’s obvious the space available in the 350-square-foot cabins has been set up for maximum utility.

Some of the folks on the HGTV show were looking to reduce living expenses, and Lisa Laraway, Gulf State Park Superintendent and manager of the state parks in southeast Alabama, said that definitely played a role in the construction of the two new cabins, which are built on pilings for an 8-foot elevation overlooking Ducker Bay on the east side of the lower Mobile-Tensaw Delta.

Laraway said money in state parks has been extremely tight in recent years, and she and former Meaher park manager Mark Pillion noticed some prefab buildings on the way up Highway 59 near Bay Minette.

“We checked those buildings and they were affordable,” Laraway said. “One of those buildings had been converted into the company’s office. We purchased the buildings, and they built them and brought them to the park. Then our people, just two staff members, completed the inside of each cabin.”

“The space is kind of tight. Each unit can accommodate a couple, with maybe a small child or two on the pull-out couch. Or, if you have a couple of guys who want to come down and go fishing, each one could have his own cabin.”

Laraway hopes that when word gets around, visitors in the area for Mardi Gras will utilize the cabins. If the cabins attain the business Laraway expects, more cabins could be in the park’s future.

“As soon as we make some m

oney and we see these are going to be successful, which we think they will, we’ll make plans for future cabins,” she said. “We have room for six to eight cabins, but we’ll probably build two at a time as we go along. We probably won’t plan for any more to` share a staircase. We’ll make them separate, and we’ll also possibly build one or two with a loft for extra sleeping space.”

The cabins have heating and air conditioning as well as a convection microwave to do some cooking. There is a full-size refrigerator, queen-size bed, loveseat, chair and a bathroom with a shower.

“There is no stovetop or oven, but you have all your linens,” Laraway said. “And you’ve got a flat-screen TV with the basic channels. It’s very comfortable.

“And you’re going to see all kinds of wildlife here. You can sit out on the deck and see egrets and pelicans, and you’ll probably see an alligator or two when the weather is warmer. And we’re right across the road from the 5 Rivers Delta Resource Center, which truly is the Gateway to the Delta. You can catch a boat there for a tour of the Delta, or you can go west to Mobile for shopping and dining, or you can travel east to Spanish Fort and Daphne. Plus, there’s a lot of great seafood right here on the Causeway. When you come to a place like this, you’re really not spending that much time in the cabin. Visitors will be doing something outside most of the time. But we are going to have a deck on every one of them so people can sit and watch nature in this beautiful Delta.”

Meaher is currently accepting cabin reservations. Rates are $99 per night weekdays and $110 per night weekends. There is a two-night minimum stay on weekends and holiday rates apply. For reservations, e-mail Meaher State Park at meaher.statepark@dcnr.alabama.gov or call (251) 626-5529. Meaher State Park is located at 5200 Battleship Parkway East, Spanish Fort, Ala., 36577.

Spanish Fort Mayor Mike McMillan said despite the growth his city has had in recent years, it’s still good to add to the public’s ability to view the wonders of the Mobile-Tensaw Delta.

“Life is good in Spanish Fort,” Mayor McMillan said. “We are stewards of the Causeway because it is in our jurisdiction. That gives us the opportunity to do it the right way. And Meaher State Park and the Mobile Delta are such beautiful places with all the natural beauty. A lot of people don’t realize what we have here.

“I’m looking forward to sitting on these cabin decks one of these days and just relaxing.”

The 1,327-acre Meaher State Park offers day-use and picnic areas, a boardwalk, two nature trails, 62 improved campsites, and boat ramp access, which is within a quarter-mile of the Blakeley River. Boaters can then turn north to explore the Mobile-Tensaw Delta or steer south to experience the vast open water of Mobile Bay.

Other new camping facilities have come online recently at another state park. Reservations are now being accepted for a new camper unit at Frank Jackson State Park in Opp, Ala., and work is currently being finalized on two additional camper units that will be available later this month. For reservations, visit www.alapark.com or call Frank Jackson State Park at (334) 493-6988.

Each three-bedroom camper units is non-smoking and sleeps up to six guests. The units are furnished with a full kitchen and utensils, central heat and air conditioning, satellite television, a picnic table and grill. Bed linens and pillows are not provided. Rates start at $85 per night and there is a two-night minimum stay on weekends.

The park also offers RV and primitive camping, hiking, swimming, fishing and boating access to the 1,000-acre Lake Jackson. Each October, the park hosts the popular Trail Masters event Scarecrows in the Park. For more information, visit www.alapark.com/frank-jackson-state-park.

PHOTOS: (David Rainer) Meaher State Park on the Causeway in Spanish Fort, Ala., recently unveiled two ultra-efficient cabins that have 350 square feet of living space. Alabama State Parks, City of Spanish Fort and Eastern Shore Chamber of Commerce officials attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

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