DESTIN — The popular “Welcome to Destin, The World’s Luckiest Fishing Village” sign by the Marler Bridge would be an even better photo-op spot if it was bordered with trees and other plants.
That’s according to Allen French, founder and executive director of the nonprofit, Destin-based Trees on the Coast organization.
“It’s one of the most beautiful signs on Earth” but is presently surrounded by weeds and dirt, French said at Monday’s City Council meeting. “We think it should be beautifully landscaped.”
In an estimated $15,000-$20,000 proposed project that received the council’s support, Trees on the Coast would plant tall palms behind and by the ends of the sign, smaller palms underneath it and saw palmettos and ornamental grasses closer to the base.
A decorative wall would surround the landscaping, and solar-powered lights might also be included.
French said the city’s irrigation truck would need to be used after the plantings at least twice per week for about six months, or until the new vegetation gets established. Also, weed control would be required at least monthly and the palms would need to be trimmed once per year, he said.
All vegetation for the proposed project would be donated and planted by Trees on the Coast, which works to improve Okaloosa and Walton counties through landscaping.
“Maybe we could split (the project cost) with the city?” French asked. “It’s not just a tree project.”
While giving his support, Councilman Chatham Morgan suggested French also ask the Okaloosa County Tourist Development Council for funding assistance. French agreed to do so.
The city’s welcome sign has stood by the western foot of the Marler Bridge for decades. The sign also is on Eglin Air Force Base property, which means the possible landscaping/lighting project will need the Department of Defense’s permission.
The council supported Councilman Skip Overdier’s motion to seek an amendment to the city’s land lease with the DOD in order for the work to occur.
With federal approval in hand, the city would then focus on figuring out how much money it could provide for the project, Overdier said.
In other business Monday, the council confirmed the appointment of Webb Warren as Destin’s new deputy city manager. Warren has worked for the city for more than 14 years, and most recently as its information technology director.
Steven Schmidt, who had been the deputy city manager since October 2017, “separated” from city service on Jan. 7, Destin spokeswoman Catherine Card recently.
Schmidt and the city mutually agreed to move in a different direction, City Manager Lance Johnson said before Monday’s meeting.