Park or parking lot? Capt. Royal Melvin Heritage Park awaiting improvements

Savannah Chastain
As of late, the city’s Capt. Royal Melvin Heritage Park has appeared to be a parking lot, than a city park.

When visiting Fisherman’s Wharf or Dewey Destin’s along the harbor, you may notice a small blue city park sign nearby welcoming you to the future home of Capt. Royal Melvin Heritage Park. The small parcel of land which is currently functioning as overflow parking for harbor-side businesses was purchased by the city with funding from The Florida Communities Trust in late 2006.

“The city purchased that property several years ago with the caveat that it would be improved to a park,” said Public Information Manager Doug Rainer. “We have a lot of parameters and things that are involved in using public funds to do that purchase.”

After almost eight years, Destin locals have begun to question why the park is still in planning phase.

“It’s sitting there vacant because we are in the process of developing the improvement plans before we can work with the state in getting the plans approved,” said Rainer.

Rainer told The Log that working plans detail the park will feature lighting and benches, a meandering pathway that leads down to the boardwalk, with possible restrooms and staging for events to be added to the property.

 “The long-term plan is to improve that into a fully functioning park to serve as the entry to the harbor,” he said. “The key behind that piece of property is to be the gateway to the harbor. It will be the way most people would recognize going down to the boardwalk.”

Currently there is no timeline for the development of the property, but Rainer said he believes the proposal to be finished and ready to submit to the state, ‘fairly soon.’

“It’s just like any development project that we would do, there is a plan of action in place and we are just in the stages of getting to that point,” Rainer said.

As for the overflow parking, there are no laws against the use of the empty lot.

“The parking lot below is a city parking lot, and it just seems natural for it to gravitate uphill to the vacant land because we haven’t improved it,” said Rainer. “But,” he added, “Our plan is to move forward, and once it’s a park it will have a different use for the public to enjoy.”