GOING FORWARD: 50 shades of emerald green

Kristiana Scott
The 2014-2015 Destin Forward Class toured the Coast Guard station during Waterways Days.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Log Reporter Kristiana Scott is a member of this year’s Destin Forward class. She will be filing stories monthly chronicling her experiences in the Chamber of Commerce’s leadership program.

It’s easy to recognize Destin’s lifeline, the heart and soul of our beloved city. Just look around you. Or rather, dip your toes in. Splash around.

It’s the emerald green water, framed by the sugar white sand, which continues to attract beachgoers and fishermen from around the world. It’s also a big reason most of us in the 2014-2015 Destin Forward class choose to live, work and play here.

But there’s more to Destin’s waterway than the mesmerizing shades of emerald green, and that’s exactly what we dove into during Waterways Day, the second class of the program.

Conversations about the good old days

Our morning began at Dewey Destin’s Harborside with a fittingly beautiful view of the harbor. We heard from some of Destin’s most powerful voices: Dewey Destin, the great-great grandson of Destin’s founder Leonard Destin; Greg Kisela, Destin city manager; Steve Schmidt, city of Destin development manager; Kelly Windes, Charter Boat Captain and Okaloosa County Commissioner; and Charles Morgan, owner of Harbor Docks.

They told the tale of Destin’s beginnings, its overwhelming growth and development, the ongoing fishing restrictions, and the unfortunate shift from “The World’s Luckiest Fishing Village” to the “Redneck Riviera.”

And although the men have different opinions and personal experiences, they all agreed on one thing — we need to bring back the Destin from the good old days.

“Destin was a completely different place 25 years ago,” Charles Morgan said. “Twenty five years ago, people came here with disposable income and stayed for weeks at a time. Now, people are coming here for a cheap vacation, indulging in the free fun, and only staying the weekend. We can’t support a community on that.”

Soaking it all in

Our Waterways Day continued with a tour of the Coast Guard Station Destin (where we couldn’t help but ask about the Crab Island regulations), a discussion with the Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance, and trip around the harbor aboard the Buccaneer Pirate Ship.

While our class spent the day soaking in the sun, and a lot of information, we realized how hard the Destin locals work to protect our precious lifeline.

Alison McDowell, executive director of Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance, explained what her team at CBA is doing to help combat the issues threatening our environment — stormwater management, native plant life preservation, oyster reef restoration, and many others.

“A big part of our mission is to educate,” McDowell said. “Everyone plays a role in protecting our waterways and we can all make a difference.”

As the CBA website states, “The health of our water resources is the foundation for our identity and our economic security. Be it fishing, tourism, or our quality of life, everything depends upon a healthy watershed.”