Destin Forward enjoys a day on the water

Shelby DeSoto
The Destin Forward Class visited the Coast Guard station where they learned about the Coast Guard's vessels and daily operations.

Editor’s Note: Shelby DeSoto, reporter for The Walton Sun and Destin Log, 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.

For the month of September, the Destin Forward class got the opportunity to learn about the city’s water ways. We had the pleasure of hearing the history of Destin’s harbor from Dewey Destin, whose great great grandfather is Leonard Destin, the founder of this town at Dewey Destin’s Harborside Restaurant last week.

Captain Kelly Windes also spoke to us about the fishing fleet history, while City Manager Greg Kisela talked about future plans for the harbor boardwalk and the city. Charles Morgan, owner of Harbor Docks, took the time to talk about how the tourism industry has affected Destin and shared his theories on its future growth.

While we sat and listened to each man speak about the city, I quickly realized that while the city may look like a tourist spot on the outside, it certainly has the small town appeal and heart on the inside. These men are all passionate about what they do and truly care about preserving Destin’s history as well as passing it on to future generations.

Our next stop was the U.S. Coast Guard Station Destin, where we toured the facility and learned from the petty officers about their role as “Guardians of the Emerald Coast.” The officers explained to us that they use a 45-foot response boat medium, a 25-foot defender class small response boat and a 24-foot shallow response boat for all of their rescues and operations.

We then took a tour aboard the Southern Star, which is also the first dolphin cruise boat in Destin. The tour consisted of us learning some facts about the unique and delicate coastline. For example, the guide explained to us that Norriego Point used to extend much farther out of the harbor. Mother Nature has taken a large toll on the pass, but we are just as guilty, too. Preserving Destin not only means preserving its history, but its natural landscape as well.

Our last stop for the day was at Clement Taylor Park, where Brandy Foley, monitoring coordinator for the Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance, spoke of the organization’s role in taking care of the bay as well as educating the public about how they can help.

In The Log, we share old photographs of the city in our “Days Gone By,” section. I love getting to go through these photographs and seeing how much has changed. It’s surprising to me how quickly everything can change over a short amount of time, thanks to weather and construction.

Learning about the past, fishing and the emerald waters surrounding Destin, it is clear that history and education of the area can help give us a better appreciation of where we live, work and play everyday. It also can help better prepare us for the road ahead. As the city changes, I hope it doesn’t forget it how it all began. Just like Leonard Destin, we’re still pioneers in a place that is home but also a vacation destination. The city of Destin has to find a balance to maintain both.

Our next adventure will include spending a day learning about tourism in Destin.