The Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance dedicated the Mike Flynt Living Shoreline Friday in Valparaiso.
VALPARAISO — As a belted kingfisher issued its trademark rattling sound and butterflies floated on a Boggy Bayou breeze, Ross Hamilton held back tears while describing his late friend, Mike Flynt.
A founder of the nonprofit, 23-year-old Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance, Flynt represented altruism, was mild-mannered but powerful, never slowed down and “got his way because he was right,” said Hamilton, a charter CBA Advisory Committee member.
“He put his mission first and himself second. Remember, we all need to be like Mike,” Hamilton told more than 50 people who gathered Friday morning at Florida Park.
The group — which included Flynt’s wife, Charlotte, son, Michael, and daughter, Laura — celebrated Flynt’s positive impact on their lives and local waterways, and dedicated the Alliance’s erosion-control living shoreline project at the park to his memory.
A retired Air Force colonel and former Valparaiso city administrator, Flynt died at age 72 on Dec. 22, 2017 in Miramar Beach. Last month, Gov. Ron DeSantis and the state Cabinet approved him for induction into the Florida Veterans’ Hall of Fame, partly because of his role with the CBA.
The living shoreline named in Flynt’s honor was completed this past spring, CBA Restoration Coordinator Rachel Gwin said. Built by an army of volunteers including local home-schooled students and alternative spring break college students, the reef- and marine-limestone shoreline is about 300 feet long and stands 5 to 10 feet from the park’s edge.
While high tide obscured most of the living shoreline Friday morning, dozens of fish were spotted between the limestone and new CBA-planted grasses that grow next to the park’s shore.
The area between the living shoreline and the grasses is habitat for various juvenile fish and lots of crabs, including blue, hermit and stone crabs, Gwin said.
The living shoreline is an outdoor classroom that will educate many local schoolchildren, said CBA Director Alison McDowell, who recalled Flynt’s passion for discovery.
“He liked using a seine net and being knee-deep with us” in the water, she said.
Looking toward the living shoreline, Michael Flynt Jr. said, “Let’s provide opportunity for the youth to learn from this, and let’s just keep that legacy going.”
As part of the living shoreline project, the CBA had a wooden bench built next to the bayou at Florida Park. Attached to the bench is a sign that includes a tribute to Mike Flynt and details about the living shoreline.
The bench was built by James Reece, owner of Build Creative Inc. in Niceville, who shared his own recent discovery. He intended to build the bench a little farther from shore but could not because of a long-abandoned john boat he found buried about 1 1/2 feet down.