Miramar Beach is more than a ZIP code

Perhaps to the surprise of everyone in Walton County, the little-planned patchwork of subdivisions and high-end tourism development that make up Miramar Beach has sprawled into becoming Walton County’s largest community. Yet from a planning point of view, Miramar Beach is in chaos. Nearly no county money has ever been spent for public infrastructure. We have no proper public parks, no community center, no playing field. The nearest school is 8 miles to the east. The only “public” structure is the post office, 32550.

Twenty-five years ago the drive from Destin to Sandestin was through a pine wood corridor, with only a few small businesses along the way. Today the green space has filled in. Miramar Beach south of U.S. 98 is a mishmash of disconnected and dysfunctional side-by-side developments which are a total mess. Whatever the comprehensive plan had been at the time, it was trampled, exceptions were made and the end result is chaos.

A growing number of permanent Walton County residents have joined a grass-roots movement to encourage Walton County commissioners to purchase a suitable property where a multi-use community facility could be created. The 34-acre Golf Garden is to be sold, and this could present a solution. The 10 acres fronting U.S. 98 will almost certainly be developed as commercial/retail. The remaining 24 acres is our big question. Rather than building more apartments and town homes, a growing number of us would like to see this parcel acquired for multi-use public green space, a park, a playing field, a covered year-round recreation and cultural center.

The terrible jumble of poorly planned streets and piecemeal development in large areas of Miramar Beach is the legacy of lenient and perhaps complicit “good old boy” county politics. Now, DOT and our current commissioners are trying to retrofit a very difficult fix. We have a chance to build something good for the future of Miramar Beach, but suitable green space is almost all gone. It is time for Walton County to make “32550” something more than just a ZIP code.

Tom Hook, Miramar Beach