Councilmen ‘a little shocked’ to see roadway on Norriego Point plan

Matt Algarin

It may be a bumpy road ahead for Norriego Point as the city works to transform the ever shrinking spit of land into a park.

“I was a little shocked to see a road,” Councilman Jim Bagby told his colleagues at a recent meeting.

During Monday night’s City Council workshop, city leaders were presented with the Norriego Point Management Plan they would be sending to the state, which details how the city park would grow and be managed.

As part of the plan, the city would make recreational improvements along the point, such as the construction of a picnic pavilion, an interpretive trail with educational signage to promote protection of the dunes, and the creation of two new embayments for additional water-related activities and boat-kayak parking.

Bike racks, an access road and parking spaces, underground utilities, trashcans and drinking fountains and restrooms at the pavilion are also listed on plan documents. The total recreation plan carries a price tag of approximately $690,000.

Councilman Larry Williges, who is a strong supporter of the pavilion and restroom facilities, told The Log the roadway and parking area just made sense, especially since it would allow people who didn’t move that well or had handicaps a shorter route to the proposed recreational area.

“I’m for it all the way,” he said. “It’s going to take a lot of money, but if they can do it right, I think this has a chance to be the crown jewel of Destin.”

While Bagby supports the overall plan, the idea of a roadway on Norriego Point doesn’t sit well.

“When did we put the road in there?” he said. “We talked about pavilions, but I don’t think we ever talked about a paved road there.”

City Manager Maryann Ustick said the conceptual plan had to be drafted “fairly quickly,” so the city hired a landscape architect to put a plan together.

“There are a number of options for access to that pavilion,” Ustick said. “It could be just a multi-use trail, it doesn’t have to be a road. We decided to use the most intense option on these plans so we could always back off that.”

For Councilman Jim Wood, the idea didn’t sit well either, but since the plan is still in a conceptual phase, he said there is more time for the city to discuss the matter.

“It seems like there should be some concerns about building a pavilion and parking area out there in an area that can be cut through by storm surge,” he said. “I would really like for us to keep our options open for now.”

As for the road in question, Community Development Director Ken Gallander said it’s part of a 100-foot right of way that was dedicated to the city as part of the Pointe One development project. If the project had moved forward, the roadway would have been used in conjunction with a roundabout for traffic.

City leaders will have another opportunity to discuss the plan for the point Dec. 17 during their regular council meeting where they will either approve or deny the management plan.

“We ought to preserve that point to the best of our ability,” Bagby told The Log. “I want to see the road and the parking on the point go away.”