About 20 residents heard Tyler Maldonado, a park planner for Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection’s Park Service, give an hour-long presentation. Using a slideshow, maps and handouts, Maldonado described the proposed improvements to the 346-acre park that include a special events gazebo, a fitness trail and a “living shoreline."

NICEVILLE — State officials held a meeting at Crosspoint United Methodist Church on Tuesday night so people could weigh in on a unit management plan for Fred Gannon Rocky Bayou State Park.

Unit management plans are created every 10 years for each of Florida's 174 state parks to map out changes and improvements to each park.

About 20 residents heard Tyler Maldonado, a park planner for Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection’s Park Service, give an hour-long presentation. Using a slideshow, maps and handouts, Maldonado described the proposed improvements to the 346-acre park that include a special events gazebo, a fitness trail and a “living shoreline."

One of the most discussed proposals was for the living shoreline, which is a natural way to reduce soil erosion by planting native plants near the water. If the plan is approved, a living shoreline will be built along the day-use area’s shoreline in the Rocky Bayou Aquatic Preserve.

Rocky Bayou park Manager Chris Hawthorne told the crowd that another way to decrease soil erosion would be to impose a wake zone restriction for boats in the aquatic preserve.

Another improvement that was discussed in detail was an engineering study to decrease stormwater runoff on a road in the northwest corner of the preserve.

“It’s a road that goes through the day-use area and it goes through an old seepage area, and culverts were put in there years ago when it was part of the Army Corps (of Engineers). And it’s just time for maintenance,” said Hawthorne, who added that the culverts, which are essentially pipes that go under the road to collect runoff, need to be maintained and modified.

“We have designers and we have biologists that go out and do the studies,” he said. “They will be the ones who will decide how to approach it.”

State biologists will make recommendations to the engineers, who will figure out ways to improve the existing culverts and perhaps build new ones.

After the mention of the proposed project to contain the seepage area at the park, Bluewater Bay resident Bruce Williams told Maldonado that fixing the road will be a “doozy” likely to cost the state a significant amount of money.

“It’s going to take quite a bit of research, quite honestly, to elevate the road to some degree,” he said. 

If approved, the Rocky Bayou unit management plan is expected to take at least 10 years to implement, depending on how fast the park receives money from the state.

The park service will weigh public comments before finalizing the improvement plan

“This is a guiding document that gives us a strategic direction for the next 10 years," Maldonado said. "The priorities for how these things are implemented, that falls to the district and the park level. So what my job in doing this, in creating this management plan, is to get all of the different ideas and goals and objectives that we want to accomplish into one comprehensive document so our leadership can make the correct decisions.”

The council that decides whether to approve the plan is the Acquisition and Restoration Council, which Maldonado said is made up of appointees of governor that include representatives from different land management agencies such as the Florida Forest Service.

Other proposed improvements for the park include:


Improve and add visitor amenities in the day-use area, including walkways, a living shoreline, special events gazebo, playground and fitness trail
Redesign the parking area, renovate the restrooms and repair the boat dock
Add restrooms, an observation platform, rustic cabin and off-road biking trail
Relocate the trailhead and redesign the existing campground layout
Upgrade utilities and replace the shop building