'30A' specialty license plate could help fund Walton County beautification, safety projects

Jim Thompson
Northwest Florida Daily News

SANTA ROSA BEACH — The nonprofit Scenic Walton Inc. has begun promoting a planned state specialty license plate dedicated to Walton County Road 30A, the iconic beachside route. 

Proceeds from the sale of the planned 30A specialty tags, which will cost $33, will go to Scenic Walton Inc. in support of its work to preserve the county's natural beauty and enhance the quality of life not only along the beaches, but across the entire county.

State legislation creating the specialty tag, which can be used on vehicles in place of the standard state license plate, took effect Oct. 1 after being signed into law in June by Gov. Ron DeSantis.

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The Oct. 1 effective date started the clock running on the next phase of the effort to get the tags onto vehicles and the sale proceeds headed to Scenic Walton Inc.

In order for the 30A specialty tag to become available, 3,000 pre-orders must be received by the state within the next 24 months. At that point, the Florida Department of Motor Vehicles will start manufacturing the tags.

Vouchers for the proposed 30A specialty tag can be purchased online at www.30Atag.com or at any tax collector’s office.

The local nonprofit organization Scenic Walton Inc., which works to preserve the natural beauty of Walton County and improve the quality of life in the community, is working to raise awareness of the proposed state 30A specialty license plate, proceeds from which would go to the nonprofit organization. The plate, approved in this year's state legislative session, won't be manufactured by the Florida Department of Motor Vehicles until 3,000 people have pre-ordered one.

To get to the required 3,000 vouchers, Scenic Walton Inc. is embarking on a marketing campaign designed to raise awareness of the tag's availability, according to Leigh Moore, executive director of the organization.

"We do think it's doable," Moore said Monday. But she also recognized the potentially limited reach of interest in the specialty tag, in that it is focused specifically on Walton County. However, she noted that the "30A brand" is known and appreciated across a wide area of Northwest Florida.

"It's not necessarily just about 30A," Moore said optimistically. "It's about the beach lifestyle and the Gulf Coast region."

The tag features a silhouette of trees rising above Western Lake, a familiar vista along 30A, along with an image of the ubiquitous blue, white and yellow "30A" promotional sticker that adorns vehicles across the country and places around the world as a memento of visits to the area.

Walton County Road 30A, which runs across dune lakes and along the Gulf of Mexico, is the subject of a proposed state specialty license plate. Proceeds from sales of the plate would go to the nonprofit Scenic Walton Inc.

In all, according to The 30A Company, a local lifestyle brand company that offers an array of beach-related merchandise, an estimated 3 million 30A stickers have been distributed.

The tag was created by Gulf Coast designer Jake Meyer with help from local residents and the 1.5 million social media fans of The 30A Company, who helped select the final design for the specialty license plate. 

Mike Ragsdale, founder and CEO of The 30A Company, weighed in on the design in comments included in a news release announcing the campaign for the specialty license plate.

“Of course, we have amazing beaches here, as do many Florida towns, but our coastal dune lakes really are unique to Walton County,” Ragsdale said. “I think our community made an excellent choice.”  

"We do not expect this to be easy," Moore said getting 3,000 vouchers in hand for the 30A tag, "but we are determined to do it."

She added that the hope is to have the 3,000 vouchers well before the 24-month deadline.

"A lot of it is just going to be boots on the ground," Moore added, describing the approach that Scenic Walton Inc. is taking to get the word out. 

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If the tag is approved, it will become one of 120 specialty license plates offered in the state, promoting everything from the U.S. military services to institutions of higher education to manatees and the arts.

Interestingly, the legislation creating the opportunity for the 30A specialty license plates also included language that would cap the types of specialty license plates offered in the state at 150, meaning that some plates would have to be retired if new ones are desired when that threshold is reached.    

If the 30A specialty tag is approved, sales proceeds will be used by Scenic Walton Inc., to help cover the nonprofit's operating expenses, Moore said.

Walton County Road 30A stretches along the Gulf of Mexico shoreline though towns like Seaside. Scenic Walton Inc, is promoting a specialty license plate tag that would raise money to continue the group's beautification efforts throughout the county.

In turn, that will allow Scenic Walton Inc. to provide additional financial support to county government efforts and other local initiatives to improve not only the 30A corridor, but other locales in the county.

“We work to improve landscaping in roadway medians, reduce litter, promote underground utilities, expand infrastructure for pedestrians and cyclists, and other projects that enhance the quality of life for Walton County residents and visitors,” Moore said in the news release. “Money raised by the new tags will help promote beautification and safety projects throughout all of Walton County, not just along the beach.”

In particular, Moore said Monday, Scenic Walton Inc. would like to see its money used to fund design work for beautification and safety projects, which would allow the county and local municipal governments to allocate more of their resources to actual construction of those projects.

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And as local governments are competing for grants and other available funding for projects, having a design in hand before applying for those dollars can provide a competitive advantage, she added.

"We're just trying to partner better with the municipalities," Moore said.

Also according to Moore, Scenic Walton Inc. takes a longer-term approach to its work, which includes using landscaping to improve not only the aesthetics but the safety of roads in the county.

"Our vision is longer term — 10, 20, 30, 40 years," she said.

In that light, she added that Scenic Walton Inc. supports of the county government's efforts to develop a countywide transportation plan, a multifaceted effort to improve the county's transportation infrastructure, including along 30A, over the next 20 years.

"I think that we've needed it for quite some time, and we would be thrilled to see them get it in place," Moore said.