LETTER: Help preserve Topsail Hill Preserve


One of many coastal dune lakes that offers freshwater fishing.

Kristiana Scott | The Sun
Published: Wednesday, July 23, 2014 at 03:11 PM.

Walton County Tourist Development Council Director Jim Bagby, Commissioner Cindy Meadows, Cypress Dunes homeowners and former County Commissioner Tim Pauls have being working quietly on a 1,650 foot, $700,000 plus boardwalk that will fragment the rare coastal scrub and dunes of Eastern Topsail Preserve. This money could be better spent on improvements to existing accesses instead of for the benefit of an exclusive group who knew what they bought when they bought their property.

Topsail State Preserve is the last bit of truly natural coast in the Panhandle. In fact Elam Stoltzfus, who is filming the PBS documentary on Coastal Dune Lakes , has stated that Topsail Hill Preserve is of national caliber similar to Yosemite National Park . The fragmentation and negative impacts on Topsail Preserve can not be taken lightly or reversed.   

The scheme to cut through the Eastern section of Topsail Preserve began last October when Commissioner Meadows, Jim Bagby and Cypress Dunes Homeowners had a meeting with the Florida Division of Recreation and Parks. Cypress Dune Homeowners originally wanted the access in Cypress Dunes at the pool area. They are a gated community and DRP said any proposed access would have to be public which would require them to take the gates down at the subdivision entrance. The proposed entrance was then moved into Beachview Heights neighborhood.

Next, in April of this year, former County Commissioner Tim Pauls, who owns a hotel and a wedding concession across 30A from Beachview Heights , joined the process. Still no one at Beachview Heights was notified. The only notice residents of Beachview Heights received that a beach access was being proposed into the middle of their neighborhood was from the South Walton Community Council watchdog group. Many of Beachview Heights residents do not want the access. 

The Florida Division of Recreation and Parks worked for years on a plan that would protect the natural resources yet provide beach, lake and other resource based recreation opportunities for all. In fact Cypress Dunes and Tim Pauls property are ¼ of a mile down the road from the current Topsail Preserve entrance. The existing beach access within the Preserve includes parking and other facilities and was located to minimize impacts on the rare resources while still providing plenty of public access.

A Cypress Dune HOA representative has stated publicly that the new entrance will increase their property values. Topsail Hill Preserve’s primary management objective is “the preservation of natural communities, significant physical features, and rare plant and animal species”.

Walton County currently has 72 beaches access; the world has only one Topsail Hill Preserve.

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