After attending a recent informational meeting regarding business opportunities at Henderson Beach State Park, some potential operators have decided to pull back, while others are staying the course.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Florida Parks Service are currently accepting business plans for vendors to offer a variety of services at the state park, including weddings, watersports, merchandise, and food service operations.
"After my accountant looked at all the bookkeeping, restrictions, reporting, and most of all to do business with a vendor, you have to pay an entrance fee to the park," said Jack Beck, of Telluride Sports LLC. "After thinking this would be a good deal, it was not for me. I am very disappointed in the way this plan was put together."
In addition to park fees, concessionaires will "typically" provide some type of compensation to the agency for operating within the state park.
Local businessman Shannon Howell is part of a group that will be submitting a proposal for services at the state park. He is a partner in Park Venues, LLC, a hospitality and recreational services company.
"My partners and I have a lot of experience in every facet of the amenity services being sought by the state's request for concessionaire proposals...," he told The Log.
Dunavant Enterprises, Inc., who owns the Henderson Park Inn, is also a partner in Park Venues, Howell said. Dunavant, which is also behind the proposed Henderson Beach Resort Project, has a "keen interest in the ecological preservation and conservation" of the park, ensuring that it's not "over commercialized."
"We are working with the park's CSO (Community Support Organization) as a partner in our business plan," Howell said. "The CSO has some very dedicated Destin residents that have dedicated a big part of their lives to the Henderson Beach State Park and over the years have done a lot of very good things for the park, so we feel it is the proper thing to incorporate the CSO into our plan and enhance what they started."
Howell said his group's plan is to take park services to the next level, without being "detrimental" to the park.
Maggie Halsey, owner of Barefoot Weddings, attended the meeting to get more information about the bid process. She asked representatives if there were any advantages to her company submitting a business plan, to which she was told "location, location, location."
While Barefoot Weddings recommends Henderson Beach to clients, Halsey said it's highly unlikely they would be submitting any proposals.
"I still see no benefit," she said.
During a recent meeting for potential vendors and interested parties, The Log spotted representatives from Legendary Inc., Dunavant, and Crystal Beach Development. A roster of attendees included wedding companies, representatives from local farmers markets, beach service companies, event planners and a wide variety of watersports operators.
Fudpucker's Chester Kroeger, who is commonly known as Father Fud, and Tim Edwards were some of the area's more notable attendees, joining the ranks of developer Jay Odom. Kroeger told The Log that he and Edwards wanted to "be good neighbors" so they turned out to the meeting.
"We really just wanted to see what was going on," he said.
At this point, Kroeger said the team at Fuds has no intentions of submitting a business proposal.
"I'd like to see something really nice go in there though," he added.