As part of the BP/Deepwater Horizon settlement, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Division of Parks and Recreation, can use funds to restore areas affected by the oil spill. The state has shrewdly moved to buy a 7-acre tract that the outflow of Little Redfish Lake sometimes tracks. Anytime we can add land to state parks it’s a good idea. For my libertarian friends who earnestly believe land set aside for parks is a poor return on investment, Florida parks generate over $2.8 billion annually.

When BP settled with the government, in no small part due to the Clean Water Act, they agreed to a comprehensive restoration plan for the Gulf of Mexico. Similar to comprehensive financial planning, this agreement identified five goals: restore and conserve habitat, restore water quality, replenish and protect marine resources, provide and enhance recreational opportunities, and monitoring the plan.

The acquisition would conserve habitat while protecting marine resources, particularly Walton County’s iconic and globally rare dune lakes. Little Redfish Lake, unlike it’s big brother to the west, Big Redfish, has minimal development. The land purchase makes sense and I applaud the state for going forward.

Deepwater Horizon recreational damage estimates range from $527 million to $858 million. To mitigate losses, language from BP’s agreement calls for “creation of infrastructure, access and use opportunities.” In response, the draft amendment to Grayton State Park’s 10-year unit plan for calls for enhancing recreation in the western portion of the park. However, in the next paragraph, the report states recreational opportunities could be addressed by building “improved or new infrastructure.” Grayton Beach State Park’s eastern side has recreational and infrastructure needs. After years of underfunding, these NRDA funds would be an appropriate source. Fix what is already there. Building new infrastructure increases future maintenance responsibilities, too.

One of the restoration approaches cited in the report is to promote environmental stewardship, education and outreach. The existing network of biking and hiking trails in the park could be expanded as part of environmental training and awareness. The report also stresses specific project design “must consider the potential impacts to natural resources.” The unit plan amendment has a proposed boardwalk and kayak landing but the construction would bisect one of the last undisturbed bits of coastal dune scrub in Walton County. Cue Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi” because you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone. The proposal also includes a parking lot but that one is too easy.

Since I live just around the corner, if the proposed Little Redfish project goes through, my kayak and I will be there, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. Don’t forget, a society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they will never sit in.

You can’t always get what you want, but Buz Livingston, CFP can help figure out what you need. For specific recommendations, visit livingstonfinancial.net or come by the office in Redfish Village, 2050 Scenic 30A, M-1 Suite 230.