'Just a gorgeous site': Leonard Destin Park set for Calhoun Avenue

MATT ALGARIN 315-4462 | @DestinlogMatt malgarin@thedestinlog.com
This rendering shows what features the proposed Leonard Destin Park will offer visitors along Calhoun Avenue.

Leonard Destin is returning to his homestead along Calhoun Avenue, as "Leonard Destin Park" will soon be born.

"This is just a gorgeous site," City Manager Greg Kisela said of the roughly 3.42-acre parcel of land on the Choctawhatchee Bay. "You can never have enough parks."

Through a partnership with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and The Trust for Public Land, the city will see this parcel of land at 101 Calhoun Avenue transformed into a park, complete with a kayak launch, a fruit tree grove, restrooms with outdoor showers, a splash pad, playground, parking for 30 cars, a full-sized historical seine boat, and a large picnic pavilion.

Leonard Destin Park is part of the first phase of the Florida Coastal Access Project, which is "intended to continue the process of using early restoration funding to restore natural resources, ecological services, and recreational use services injured or lost as a result of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill."

Mimi Drew from the FLDEP told The Log $100 million in funding was awarded to the state of Florida from BP through the Natural Resources Damage Assessment (NRDA) process for early restoration projects related to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

The FLDEP was tasked with acquiring property and identifying beneficial uses for the funds, which is where The Trust for Public Land came in.

The Trust is a non-profit organization based in San Francisco, whose mission is to "create parks and protect land for people, ensuring healthy, livable communities for generations to come," according to its website.

"The trust acted as our representative to find properties and worked with their owners," Drew said. "This is one of our more exciting projects; people just love to have passive spaces to enjoy."

The city has seen the benefits of the Trust's mission before, as it was able to secure property in Crystal Beach and along the harbor at Capt. Royal Melvin Heritage Park.

In addition to the proposed Destin project, the Trust and FLDEP are also putting together proposals for projects in Pensacola, Lynn Haven and Franklin County. Draft restoration plans were listed on the Federal Register Tuesday, Drew said.

As part of the process, the public will be invited to attend a public workshop Dec. 14 in Panama City to review the proposed projects and offer feedback. The meeting will be held at Gulf Coast State College (5230 West U.S. Hwy. 98) from 6-9 p.m. Comments can also be submitted online at www.gulfspillrestoration.noaa.gov.

If all goes as planned, the city should have the "keys" to the new park by this time next year, Kisela said. City leaders will have to officially accept the park during a scheduled city council meeting slated more than likely for January.

For his part, Dewey Destin, who is the great grandson of Destin's namesake Leonard Destin, said he was honored to hear the park would bare Leonard's name.

"The fact that it's Leonard Destin's home site from the 1850's is great," he said. "We're thrilled. It's going to be very nice if they do it up as planned."