It’s been a busy year in South Walton, including a celebration for the opening of a new regional beach access, work on two other new regional beach accesses progressing, improvements being made to keep existing beach accesses ins good condition, pedestrian bridges being updated and replaced, and new properties being purchased to allow space for more improvements in the future. Here’s a look at what happened in 2019 and what’s on the docket for 2020.
New Regional Beach Access
South Walton’s beaches are the main attraction for visitors and locals alike, so it should come as no surprise that the opening of a new regional beach access was cause for celebration. On Dec. 10, members of the Walton County Board of County Commissioners, the Walton County Tourist Development Council (TDC), local business owners and members of the community gathered at the new Dune Allen Regional Beach Access for a grand opening ceremony.
Located at 5999 West County Highway 30A in Dune Allen, this new beach access includes 18 parking spots, bike racks, golf cart parking, restroom facilities and a lifeguard station on the beach. With 220-feet of beachfront, the 1.51-acre property, which was purchased in 2016 for $7.4 million, brings the total number of regional beach access in South Walton to nine. It’s the first new regional beach access to open in more than a decade.
“As a beach destination, we know visitors come to South Walton for the sugar-white sand, so it’s important that the TDC continues to provide access for our guests,” says Visit South Walton Executive Director Jay Tusa. “With the opening of the new Dune Allen Regional Beach Access and two others in the works, the TDC has shown its commitment to providing our guests a world-class beach experience.”
Beach Access Improvements
TDC crews also spent a significant amount of time in 2019 making repairs to both regional and neighborhood access points throughout South Walton, including replacement of decking and railings, the addition of bike racks, or in some cases, a complete rebuild.
Improvements were made at the following neighborhood beach accesses: Pelayo, Gardenia, Azalea, Holly, Wall Street, Sugar Dunes, Gulf Lakes Beach, Winston Lane and Seacrest. All of these accesses are located in Inlet, Seacrest and Seagrove. The enhancements were designed to provide visitors and locals an upscale beach experience that matches South Walton’s natural beauty.
Improvements were also slated for the neighborhood accesses at Night Cap, Live Oak and Dogwood. Work on the regional beach accesses at Ft. Panic, Gulfview Heights, Inlet Beach and Ed Walline is ongoing but should be completed in February.
Other Ongoing & Upcoming TDC Projects
As part of the multi-year capital improvement project to repair/replace and improve the multi-use path along the scenic corridor between CR 83 and CR 283, the existing 8-foot wide path was widened to 10-feet, new signage was added, stormwater improvements were completed, and areas to stop and rest along the path were installed. Repairs and replacements due to natural wear and tear were made to the wooden pedestrian bridges over Draper Lake, Eastern Lake and Deer Lake. Deer Lake was replaced with new metal spans, while Draper Lake and Eastern Lake saw the wooden sections replaced.
The TDC purchased three properties in 2019. Two parcels near Eastern Lake totaling .278-acres were purchased for a total of $1,887,500. These will be used for parking. A 2.3-acre parcel along County Highway 393 was purchased for $3.7 million and will be used as a parking area.
Additionally, the Walton County TDC is in the process of developing a new facility as they have outgrown the current Visitor Center on Hwy. 331, which is limited in parking spaces and difficult for visitors to reach when approaching from the north or west. The new Discovery Center will be located at 24606 US Highway 331 and is being designed by Dewberry Engineering.
South Walton’s beaches see millions of visitors each year, so in order to ensure the safety of visitors and locals alike, the TDC signed a new contract with the South Walton Fire District earlier this year that would provide funding to hire more lifeguards and lifesaving equipment and provide coverage of the beaches year-round.
Looking ahead, here are some projects the TDC has in the pipeline for 2020.
The TDC has two new regional beach accesses in the works, one in Seagrove (1.5-acres and 117-feet of beachfront) and the other in Miramar Beach (2.03-acres and 360 feet of beachfront). The Seagrove property, which sits directly across from Café Thirty-A, is currently in the planning and permitting phase and is expected to break ground this year.
The Miramar Beach property, located at 907 Scenic Gulf Drive, will break ground in 2020, with construction expected to be completed by the end of the year. Once completed, these new properties will bring the total number of regional beach accesses in South Walton to 11.
Along with protecting the local economy, safeguarding the quality of the South Walton experience is one of TDC’s main objectives, so locals and visitors will notice continual improvement projects taking place throughout its 16 beach neighborhoods. While some projects are larger than others, they all work to elevate the South Walton experience from other competing destinations and underscore the unique amenities that make South Walton a wonderful place to live and visit.
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