SANTA ROSA BEACH — Although Richard Loverne judged his effort to lobby the Walton County Commission for a referendum on a fishing pier “a bullied flop,” he seems to have succeeded in starting a discussion.
While Loverne couldn’t persuade the five commissioners Tuesday to agree to hold a referendum or even debate the idea, he did secure a promise that surveys to weigh support for a pier over the Gulf of Mexico would be conducted on two county websites.
“If we do something like a survey, it might give us a better idea of the will of the people,” Commissioner Cecilia Jones said.
Although Loverne left podium unhappy — “The BCC (Board of County Commissioners) just sat there and did not vote on whether or not to put it on the ballot” — a lively on the matter ensued after he returned to his seat.
Resident Alan Osborne jumped up to let commissioners know he favored erecting a fishing pier and letting the county's Tourist Development Council pay for it. He said building a pier for fishing would provide a recreational opportunity, “a tourism driver” and give teens a safe, productive place to hang out.
Osborne said he opposed Loverne’s suggestion that the pier be built on Florida state park land because it would produce a “powder keg.” He said he favored building the pier on land purchased by the county.
Another resident, Coy Bowman, voiced numerous objections to the Idea. She said it would kill endangered sea turtles, change tide flows, block scenic Gulf views and pose a danger to young people.
“Teenagers will end up getting drunk and falling off of it,” she said.
Resident Frank Day stood to object to Bowman’s assertion that no one wanted to look at a fishing pier. “I would like to look at a fishing pier from our beach,” he said.
Jones said the county faces numerous “challenges” that would have to be addressed before the commission considers building a public fishing pier.