When a portion of County Road 30A fell in at Redfish Lake Aug. 18 due to excessively large amounts of rainfall, businesses and residents were told that the county would try to have the stretch open to traffic again by Spring Break 2014.
The inconvenience to residents and visitors aside, business owners in that area soon realized they could not survive without easy access for their customers.
When their cries for help went seemingly unanswered, some business owners appealed to a higher power – former Gov. Mike Huckabee.
"I doubt I did much, but I'd rather think that people in government are starting to realize that a project like this CAN be done lickety-split when government decides that people and their livelihoods are the highest priority — far above protecting the process of slow-walked paperwork," he told The Sun by email.
Huckabee is a resident of Blue Mountain Beach and has been known to frequent businesses up and down 30A. One of his regular dining spots is Marie's Bistro in Blue Mountain, located maybe a football field's length away from the piece of road that fell in.
Marie's owner Hanie Nasri has become friendly with the former presidential hopeful and bemoaned to him what the road closure and detour was doing to his business and income for him and his employees.
"We used to have a lot of business coming over from Grayton for lunch. Now they tell us they will wait until the road is fixed," said Nasri. "This has been very devastating to us. We have lost a tremendous amount of business. We struggled through Labor Day. We are down 80 percent for lunch and 85 percent for dinner.”
Nasri says Huckabee stepped up to the plate. This week, dump trucks were seen at the site and repairs are underway. Nasri said the washout has been filled in and is just awaiting a coat of asphalt.
“We didn't want to give up,” Nasri said. “We will work harder, but we needed help. I thank God for his help."
The county spokesman said he was not aware of Huckabee’s role in getting the road fixed, but Huckabee acknowledged to The Sun that he did indeed offer to make contacts that would be helpful after talking with some local people on 30A about how devastating this is for their businesses.
"So, I'd give all the credit to the local government folks realizing that 30A is the lifeblood of South Walton economic activity and to the business owners along 30A who don't need roadblocks to business, but pathways," Huckabee said.
Nasri said he believes Huckabee bypassed the county and made calls to Gov. Rick Scott and Rep. Steve Southerland to get the road repaired sooner rather than later.
"If this had happened at Seaside or WaterColor it would not have taken but a couple of days to figure something out," said Nasri. "We didn't want to waste time. We needed the road fixed in time for Thanksgiving and Christmas.”
And work could be done well before that. Paul Vizard, owner of 30A Media, who led a Labor Day Weekend protest of the timeframe, said he is hearing the road could be opened as early as the middle of next week.