I'm writing to express my opposition to the TDC intention to pave the Walton Dunes land parcel in the name of providing additional beach access for tourists. I have been an owner of a Beachfront Townhome since 1983, and the land owned by Beachfront Townhome Owners Association immediately abuts that parcel on its north side — the area whose sand dunes Ms. Moliterno intends to pave.
I am appalled that the Board of County Commissioners has approved a plan for this destructive project without informing any of the residents and/or property owners who live within a few hundred feet of the natural area to be destroyed. This is illegal, isn't it?
But beyond the Commissioners' and Ms. Moliterno's "full speed ahead" attitude, I'm gravely concerned about the impact on our property from this short-sighted decision when we have another bad hurricane. In 1995, those dunes, which Ms. Moliterno wants to destroy, protected our homes from Hurricane Opal. If you were not in Walton County when Opal hit us, you may not appreciate the value of a dune barrier in protecting homes, but we have video of the damage done by that hurricane, and it is sobering.
Walton County, which had many more dune barriers, fared much better than Bay County, which looked like a war zone. I believe this is the reason the federal government, owner of the Walton Dunes parcel, instituted projects involving planting of sea oats, construction of "snow" fences, signs to direct foot traffic around the dunes, and other constructive methods to restore the dunes. After 15 years of dunes restoration has returned those dunes to approximately 2/3 of their original size, the TDC has paid thousands of dollars to an engineering firm for a parking lot plan which would flatten those restored dunes.
Ms. Moliterno's stated reason for paving the Walton Dunes parcel is that tourists need more parking for beach access. However, she cannot prove this need because it does not exist. Nearby, on Beachfront Trail, is a parking lot for beach access. Tourists never use it. Also, the entrance to Deer Lake State Park on Hwy. 30A is less than a half mile east of the 30A turnoff for Beachfront Trail. The park has plenty of parking as well as toilet facilities. Ms. Moliterno has said that the state park doesn't qualify as beach-access parking because it is not free. However, no fee is required for entry or use. A sign solicits donations, and that is all.
This is just one of several flaws in Ms. Moliterno's hasty maneuver to destroy Walton Dunes before the public knows what she and the County Commissioners have done. If she or you or anyone making such decisions were to visit this land parcel, you would see:
1) There is already parallel parking taking place along Beachfront Trail. This allows the usage of the road, which residents to the east of this parcel require in order to drive to their homes. Ms. Moliterno proposes that parking adjacent to the Gulf is necessary to accommodate more "tourists" and collect a fee per parking space from the federal government. But she says it will not harm the dunes. Since the dunes come up to the road, she has nowhere to go with adjacent parking except to pave the dunes.
2) The TDC's engineering plan, which calls for two rows of adjacent parking, means that all homeowners and visitors to homes east of this parcel would be required to drive through that parking lot to reach their homes. Not only is this unfair to those property owners, it is an accident waiting to happen.
In speaking to many Walton County voters about this impending disaster, I was told that our fight to prevent the destruction of the dunes is probably hopeless because Ms. Moliterno gets everything she wants and she likes to spend bed tax monies on building projects instead of more immediate needs that could actually help tourism in Walton county. Last summer was a banner year for the bed tax, and this was due mainly to BP's advertising. TDC has not justified its existence but instead costs Walton County taxpayers much time, energy and money in monitoring this reckless agency and its environmentally dangerous projects.
Please do not let this project proceed.
Wanda Bryant Ruffin