DESTIN — Norriego Point is and always has been the focal point of Destin, former Mayor Sam Seevers told more than 50 people gathered on the sandy peninsula Wednesday morning.

That’s when Seevers helped celebrate the groundbreaking of the more than $12 million Norriego Point stabilization and recreation project. The project, led by the city and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, will restore the point to its pre-1995/Hurricane Opal condition and is scheduled to be completed in the spring of 2019.

“Today is a huge deal” and marks the culmination of many years of hard work, Seevers said.

Seevers, who served as a city councilwoman from 2002-2010 and then as mayor from 2010-2014, was instrumental in obtaining funding for the project.

Norriego Point protects Destin Harbor, the HarborWalk Village boardwalk and the city’s multi-million dollar charter fishing and recreational boating industry, Seevers said. She recalled that the city replaced Okaloosa County as the owner of the point in early 2010, and how the area then lost an entire tourist season because of real and perceived problems caused by the April 20, 2010, BP oil spill.

That tragedy was followed by years of work and competition to obtain some of the oil spill settlement money for restoration projects in Florida.

“Over 300 applications were submitted, including 20 from Okaloosa County,” Seevers said.

Funding for the Norriego Point project was approved in 2014, she said. Local officials had been discussing the need to stabilize the point since 1999.

Seevers gave much of the credit for obtaining the money to Destin’s recently retired grants and projects manager, Lindey Chabot. She also praised the efforts of longtime city employee Steve Schmidt, who recently became Destin’s deputy city manager, and Pearce Barrett, the FDEP’s project manager for the Norriego Point work.

The overall project “should harden this piece of land” against erosion, reduce harbor-dredging costs and provide a much nicer recreation area, Mayor Scott Fischer said at Wednesday’s ceremony.

Luhr Bros. Inc. of Columbia, Illinois, is the contractor for the project’s $9.7 million first phase, which could be substantially completed by May 31.

In the initial phase, about 5 acres of sand will be dredged from East Pass channel and added to the 7.6-acre point. Sheet piling, rock breakwaters and rock shoreline stabilization structures will be installed, more than 1,000 linear feet of shoreline will be restored and new swimming areas will be created on the East Pass side.

Contractors will be chosen later for the project’s second and final phases.

The second phase will focus on restoring the point’s dunes and is set to be completed next fall. That segment will include the planting of about 28,000 square feet of sea oats, which will help stabilize the dunes and provide habitat and food for birds and other wildlife.

The last phase will add recreational amenities and other features, such as restrooms, a park shelter, three dune walkovers, a boardwalk and new parking spots.

Jacksonville-based Taylor Engineering, which has an office in Destin, will provide construction engineering and inspection services for the project.