We are property owners in the immediate vicinity of one of the three beach access parking projects being proposed, although not the one featured in a recent article in The Walton Sun.
We are very concerned over the Walton Dunes proposed beach access parking project. The property owners in the vicinity of this particular beach access are unanimously opposed to this proposed TDC project. Like your description of the other project, the TDC has been less than forthcoming regarding plans for this project and the community as a whole has struggled to get information about the proposed plans and expenditures. To date, the TDC has expended about $50,000 on feasibility studies and conceptual plans. No property owners were contacted prior to these expenditures.
This particular beach access is not a large parcel and includes 300 feet of beachfront. It is a neighborhood beach access facility and has been classified as such (Genesis Study Appendix B). In addition, there is a paved parking lot on Beachfront Trail a very short walk away from this site, which is owned by the county and includes 25 parking spaces. This lot has no signage indicating this is a public lot to beachgoers, and goes empty for the majority of the year. Additional beach access, including handicapped beach access, is available in Deer Lake State Park just east of this proposed project.
The property owners are not only concerned with the disruption of the natural neighborhood beach access this project would cause, but this project also introduces a safety issue for children. Beachfront Trail is a narrow, winding, dead-end neighborhood street that is not suitable for additional traffic. Adding street parking on both sides of the road will create a major issue for travel into the existing neighborhoods. At any given day during the summer and spring break, there are countless children walking and bicycling these quiet neighborhood roads.
Maintenance would be another issue for this project. The entire beach/dune area being considered on the south side of Beachfront Trail is flooded with any tropical storm or larger we last experienced this in September with Tropical Storm Isaac. This will conservatively occur every two to three years. If this proposed project is completed, any structure on the south side will require constant rebuilding with each heavy storm.
Obviously, there are environmental issues as well to consider. In order for the project to include parking and restrooms, the construction must be placed south of the dune toe line and will require flattening of the dunes for construction. The construction will replace both the natural vegetation and the nesting areas of the turtles and the snowy plovers.
It seems the TDC has acquired funds to complete projects and were asked by the county commissioners to look for additional beach parking opportunities. The TDC has taken the easy way out, and basically targeted existing county owned parcels to accommodate additional parking facilities without the due diligence of collecting data regarding traffic patterns and demand to justify their selected targets.
It would seem the public, property owners and tourists would be better served if the county used the funds to renovate and maintain the existing lot and added signage so beachgoers would actually make use of the existing lot. In addition, the funds could be used to enhance the Deer Lake State Park facility where a neighborhood would not suffer from such a disruption.
Lyrics from The "Big Yellow Taxi" Joni Mitchell song come to mind "They paved paradise and put up a parking lot" seems very fitting for the issue at hand.
The community will be taking part in both the meetings on Nov. 8 and Nov. 15. Hopefully, common sense will prevail, and the TDC will actually perform the necessary thorough research required to ensure they are completing projects that will achieve the end goal while still preserving neighborhoods, the natural environment, and safety of residents and tourists.
Marina Daniel is a parttime Seagrove Beach resident.