Walton County Commissioners again heard a citizen's request to build a fishing pier into the Gulf of Mexico on Tuesday night, but took no definitive action on the request.
"It would be for people who can't afford [to go] ocean fishing," said Richard Loverne. "In your brochure you talk of everything people can do here except fish. Why put in artificial reefs if you can't get to them? Put it [the pier] on the ballot and let the people decide. If the people say 'no' I have no other comment."
This was the second time Loverne has brought the fishing pier before County Commissioners, the first being in January 2017 when he asked for a fishing pier to be put in at Grayton Beach State Park. He was told then that the county does not regulate state parks. He believes the addition of ocean fishing piers would optimize the use of the state parks, providing ocean fishing opportunities in addition to swimming and picnic opportunities.
However, Commission Chair Bill Chapman explained to Loverne that the county's parks and access points can't support a fishing pier as they are not large enough. The only place large enough to support a pier is one of the state parks.
"We don't regulate the state parks, and I can tell you that Grayton doesn't want the pier," said Chapman. "And I can tell you that will be an uphill battle."
"I am asking you to vote to put it on the referendum. Let the citizens decide," said Loverne, undeterred.
Chapman again explained that the county doesn't regulate state parks. State parks have their own management plans that are done 10 years in advance and whether the people want it or not, a lot of things would need to be factored in, such as where and how.
Local resident Alan Osborne suggested buying property for a county fishing pier.
District 2 Commissioner Cecilia Jones suggested creating a survey to hear from the people.
Chapman gave direction to put a survey on the county and TDC sites before anything else is done.
Tourist Development Council Director Jay Tusa told Commissioners that he is always looking for property to buy for the county.
"But money is something that needs to be considered," said Tusa. "Do we want available money to go towards a fishing pier or beach access? We need to prioritize. We will have challenges moving a fishing pier forward."
Loverne expressed to The Sun his disappointment with Commissioners not voting to put the pier on the ballot to let the people decide, and likened the Commission's lack of action to being a dictatorship.