Potential Henderson Beach vendors, residents voice questions, concerns

Savannah Chastain
Tim Edward and Chester Kroeger of Fudpucker's and local developer Jay Odom were just a few of the city's power players that attended the Henderson Beach vendor meeting.

While developers came to hear about possible business opportunities at Henderson Beach State Park, at least one resident spoke out.

 “The public across the board was not in favor of the vendors,” said Susan Kneller, who volunteers with the park’s citizen support organization. “I fail to see the logic…”

But state officials quickly countered that they wanted to preserve the natural beauty of the park and offer more opportunities to visitors.

“We are not expanding the footprint of the existing facilities,” said Katie Parrish, concessions planning manager for Florida State Parks system, during a mandatory vendors meeting at Destin City Hall Tuesday.

Despite freezing rain falling in advance of a major ice storm, more than 60 potential vendors, residents and interested parties attended the informational meeting put on by representatives from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and Henderson Beach State Park.

Looking around the room, several power players in Destin could be seen in the crowd. Fudpucker’s Tim Edwards and Chester Kroeger, Crystal Beach Development’s Jay Odom and local developer Shannon Howell, who is tied to the Henderson Beach Resort project, attended the meeting.

The park is currently accepting “calls for business plans” to offer concession services at the state park, which is known as one of the areas last pristine areas. The meeting served as a venue to present potential bidders with information about what the park is looking for in vendors.

“We are looking to provide the best visitors’ services we can,” Parrish said.

Parrish explained that the park is looking to enhance its services in several aspects. Specifics are still up in the air, but talk on food and beverage concessions ranged from a mobile unit hot-dog stand, to a brick and mortar facility that could offer alcohol. Also up for discussion was event planning contracts, including weddings and parties, and recreational rentals such as kayaks, paddle boards and WaveRunners.

 “We’re not asking for any capital improvements at this time,” she clarified, “however if you’d like to add those to your proposal you can.”

Many Destin residents in attendance feared the loss of the last vendor free beach in the city. Rumors of lodging facilities trying to edge their way in were also silenced as Parrish confirmed that Henderson State Park just renewed its 10-year unit management plan, and nothing of the sort was proposed.

Questions were raised as to the particulars of the business agreement spanning from operating details to contract length.

“It depends on what type of business you are providing,” Parrish explained. “Agreements vary greatly from 90 days to 20-something years based on services, coupled with projected revenue and experience.”

She stated that the typical contract length is five years but everything is negotiable.

The department is still taking questions concerning the concession agreement through Feb. 4, and can be sent to Mary Garland at Mary.GarlandOgden@dep.state.fl.us. Answers will be posted online at: http://www.dep.state.fl.us/parks/bos/vsp/2014/01_14.htm.

Potential vendors have until Feb. 11, 5 p.m.  to submit their business proposals.

Despite the concerns about developing the park, Henderson Beach Manager Daniel Laird assured the group that there were no plans to overdevelop the park in any way.

“We want to protect the resource,” he said. “That is our main goal.”

Click here to see a 360 degree view of Henderson Beach State Park.

CORRECTION: Originally, this article inaccurately stated that Harbor Docks' Charles Morgan was in attendance. Morgan wrote The Log: "Had I been there, I would have been on the side of the people against vendors in the park. We live in a town that doesn't need anymore vendors anywhere," Morgan told The Log. The Log regrets the error.