Gulf Shores: Gulf Shores : Tourists line beaches, but not businesses

12:01 AM

Gulf Shores : Tourists line beaches, but not businesses

A beach umbrella shading them from the hot noon Independence Day sun, David and Toni Benoit of New Orleans watched their two sons, Stefan and Corey, ride skim boards up and down the Baldwin shore.

New Orleans residents who moved back to their home in January for the first time since Hurricane Katrina struck Aug. 29, the Benoits took advantage of the holiday and a condo in Gulf Shores to escape to a quiet spot on Orange Beach, near the Flora-Bama Lounge.

"It's nice to get away from New Orleans and the mess and the clutter," Toni Benoit said, digging her toes into the white sand.

"We came to see the surf," David Benoit added. "And this gives us a chance to hang with the kids."

Vacationers from Mississippi and Louisiana, many still reeling from the effects of Hurricane Katrina, retreated this weekend to Baldwin County, where they found beaches that have been extensively restored since Hurricane Ivan eroded much of the coastline in 2004.

Meanwhile, at Gulf State Park in Orange Beach, Joel Engle, his wife Charity and their three daughters, Rebekah, Rachel and Anna Rose, snacked on turkey sandwiches and potato chips for a picnic lunch under a newly constructed pavilion.

The Purvis, Miss., family visits the Alabama coast a few times a year and decided to camp out at Gulf State Park for the holiday to watch fireworks shows in Orange Beach and Gulf Shores, Joel Engle said.

"This is a great location," he said, "and we thought we'd have a nice little picnic."

But while business had been reaching pre-Ivan levels along the Baldwin coast this spring, some merchants and officials said this holiday weekend wasn't as busy as in years past.

Police in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach reported no problems during the holiday and said traffic was fairly light throughout the day.

By DAVID FERRARA

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