"I used to catch crabs and chase fish up and down this beach. It's a wonderful parcel of land and I'm very happy that everyone will be able to enjoy it."

City of Destin Council members and staff held a groundbreaking ceremony marking the start of construction at Captain Leonard Destin Park on Thursday afternoon.

The new park is located at 101 Calhoun Avenue and will likely be completed by the end of this year.

Mayor Scott Fischer spoke at the ceremony, thanking the Trust for Public Land and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection for purchasing the 3.42 acre property, building a park, and giving it back to the city upon completion.

"We’re very excited about this project," Fischer said. "The fact that we were able to get a grant for the building of the park as well as operation and maintenance funds for 10 years is wonderful. We’re anxious to get it done"

According to Kate Brown, senior project manager at the Trust for Public Land, the project, to include the purchase of land, will cost about $10 million, with approximately $1 million added for operations and maintenance fees.

"We looked at dozens of potential sites throughout the Panhandle and were so happy we were able to purchase this parcel," Brown said.

The funds for the park came from early restoration money from the Deep Water Horizon Oil Spill Natural Resource Damage Assessment, with an aim to increase public access to the coast.

Fischer said during his speech that there will be a beach area for the public, as well as beautiful, curved pathways and a rookery for the number of blue herons that nest in the park’s old live oak trees. Throughout the ceremony, the long-winged herons flew back and forth from their nests to the water.

The land itself was one of the city’s original founders, Captain Leonard Destin’s homestead in the mid-nineteenth century.

Captain Destin’s great-great-great grandson, Parker Destin, who now serves as a city council member, said that he’s looking forward to the park’s opening.

"I used to catch crabs and chase fish up and down this beach," Destin said, pointing to the south end of the property. "It’s a wonderful parcel of land and I’m very happy that everyone will be able to enjoy it."