Jon boat is the class project.


Destin Forward, the Destin Area Chamber of Commerce’s hands-on community education and leadership program, donated a jon boat to the Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance on April 24.



“The Destin Forward Class of 2013 was tasked with creating and funding a project that would have a lasting impact on Destin,” said Destin Forward class member Justin Woodard, Community Bank, Destin. 



In September 2012, the CBA’s director Julie Terrell spoke during the first Destin Forward class, which focused on the area’s waterways.  After explaining the work the CBA does to protect and sustain the Choctawhatchee Bay, she mentioned that one of the boats used to transport oyster shells and perform water tests in local rivers was stolen.



“That really sparked our interest,” said the Chamber’s event coordinator and Destin Forward class member Suzy Nicholson Hunt.  “It was a unanimous decision to replace the boat.”



“As demonstrated by the BP Oil Spill in 2010, the health of our waterways has a direct impact on our local economy and our citizens’ quality of life.  By providing the CBA with a new boat to aid in its mission, our project will have a lasting impact on Destin and surrounding communities,” said Woodard.  



The boat will be used to restore critical habitat in the bay, specifically to assist with the CBA’s Living Shoreline projects.



“Living shorelines are composed of an oyster reef just off shore to help lessen wind and wave energy, so that native plants can survive along the shore,” said Terrell.  “This jon boat will be used like a mini-barge to transport multiple bags of oyster shell from the shore to the constructed oyster reef site. With living shorelines in Choctawhatchee Bay, erosion is reduced, and sometimes reversed; excessive nutrients from various human activities upland are removed from water before they enter the bay; and critical habitat is provided to many estuarine organisms. By helping to protect our bay, this year's Destin Forward Class is helping to protect our economic future.”



The boat’s inaugural use will be at 9 a.m. May 4 at the pier across from the Mattie Kelly Park on Beach Drive. The community is invited to participate and help restore the CBA’s living shoreline.  For details, call the CBA at 850-267-1888.



The Destin Forward Class of 2013 will graduate on May 7, during a ceremony at the Resorts of Pelican Beach.  In addition to completion of a class project, the class also met monthly, touring Destin landmarks and waterways, visiting Tallahassee, and listening to and asking questions of city, county, and state elected officials, as well as community and business leaders. The Destin Area Chamber of Commerce is now accepting applications for the Destin Forward Class of 2014.  For details, call the Chamber at 850-837-6241.