Upcoming beach projects: Grayton Beach targeted for public transit, traffic and amenities

Jim Thompson
Northwest Florida Daily News

SANTA ROSA BEACH — Tuesday was a "beach day" for Walton County commissioners, as they approved a number of beach-related projects as well as tasks aimed at making it easier for people to get to and from the county's wildly popular Gulf of Mexico beaches

Among other actions, commissioners approved a request from Brian Kellenberger, director of beach operations for the county's Tourist Development Council (TDC), to seek design and permitting services for construction of a public restroom and public transit stop on Hotz Avenue in Grayton Beach.

The firm eventually selected for the work will design an 800- to 1,200-square-foot building with gender-specific restrooms, and both indoor and outdoor waiting spaces for public transit vehicles. As the design work moves forward, the firm will present a preliminary design proposal for review, any adjustments and approval by the County Commission, followed by a complete design plan and an engineering-based estimate of construction costs.

Beachgoers make their way through the crowded parking lot at the Miramar Regional Beach Access. Walton County commissioners took several actions Tuesday aimed at providing easier and less crowded access to the beaches.

Background:Walton County approves $2.3 million land purchase for Grayton Beach public restroom

In May, commissioners approved an expenditure of $2.3 million in TDC funds — the TDC's revenue comes from a 5% "bed tax" charged to visitors staying in accommodations in South Walton — to purchase the 0.16-acre tract for the restroom and transit stop.

'Our prettiest and most-used beach'

"I don't think anybody doesn't understand we need bathrooms in Grayton," Commissioner Danny Glidewell said at the May meeting. "That's obviously our prettiest and most-used beach."

The transit stop will be designed to encourage visitors to use a public parking lot on the edge of Grayton Beach and take a shuttle to the beach itself, thereby easing parking and traffic problems in the community.

In a related development, commissioners Tuesday approved a $164,798 outlay to Halff Associates Inc., one of the engineering firms that works regularly with the county, for the design of turn lanes on County Road 283 and County Road 30A in the edge of Grayton Beach. The intersection, near the public parking area serving Grayton Beach and other locations along 30A, also will be equipped with traffic signals to replace the stop signs and flashing red lights currently at the crossroads.

CR 30A and its intersecting roads can become jammed with vehicles during tourist season.

Commissioners also approved an outlay of nearly $150,000 to have Halff Associates Inc., design left turn lanes on CR 30A at County Road 83 in Blue Mountain Beach.

In other transportation-related action connected with the beaches, commissioners took a first look at and approved an initial conceptual design for a parking area on County Road 393 near CR 30A. The planned lot, on a 2-acre tract near the regularly crowded Ed Walline Regional Beach Access, is set to include 89 regular parking spaces, 11 golf-cart parking spaces and a building to serve as a public transit stop.

More parking: Walton commissioners move on $5.5 million property for Miramar Beach access

Commissioners also took steps Tuesday to address parking issues near Scenic Gulf Drive in Miramar Beach. They authorized Chairman Trey Nick to sign documents finalizing the purchase of a 4.88-acre tract at Professional Place and U.S. Highway 98, less than a half-mile from the well-used Miramar Regional Beach Access on Scenic Gulf Drive.

The tract, to be purchased with more than $5 million in bed tax revenue, is slated to become a parking lot from which people can walk to the beach access or possibly in the future take advantage of trolley service to the beach.

Beach access in Seagrove   

Commissioners authorized Nick to sign a $41,430 contract with Atkins North America, Inc., an engineering firm that works regularly with the county, for design of a neighborhood beach access off Headland Avenue in the Seagrove Beach community.

The authorization is an indication that legal issues surrounding the proposed new beach access have been resolved. One issue in connection with the property proposed for the beach access was whether the county had accepted an offer of the tract made more than 70 years ago allowing its use for public purposes. That issue was resolved recently in the county's favor in federal court.

Residents of the area have widely favored construction of the new beach access, telling commissioners at an August meeting that it was needed to help spread out pedestrian traffic through their neighborhoods and to spread out people using the beach.

Just for fun: Why do we dig holes at the beach? Science and shovelers weigh in

Even with Tuesday's commission decision, it will be months before construction of the beach access could start, following commission review and approval of the project design.

Public workshop on beach ordinance

Commissioners Tuesday also approved amendments to portions of the county's beach activities ordinance related to the vending of chairs, umbrellas and other goods and services along the beaches.

As approved, the beach activities ordinance provisions related to vendor activities delineate a fine of not more than $500 for a violation, and note that code enforcement officials and sheriff's deputies can write citations for ordinance violations.

Beyond fines, according to the ordinance, "the county shall use any other lawful methods of enforcement and remedy to gain compliance with the provisions of this chapter."

On a related note, as happens every year at the end of tourist season, the public will get a chance to weigh in with ideas on possible future changes to the beach activities ordinance. A public workshop is scheduled for 1 p.m. Oct. 5 at the South Walton Courthouse Annex at 31 Coastal Centre Blvd.in Santa Rosa Beach.