NEWS

Expand the park? City looks to purchase land beside Joe's Bayou Boat Ramp

Savannah Vasquez
svasquez@thedestinlog.com
Destin city manager Greg Kisela talks recently about the city acquiring the old cement plant on Joe's Bayou in Destin.

The city of Destin is looking to acquire a new plot of land to add acreage to the existing Joe’s Bayou Boat Launch and Mattie Kelly Park and Nature Walk.

The 4-acre lot along Beach Drive was once the site of a concrete plant that ended business there about six years ago.

“It’s been a concrete plant for a number of years, owned by the international company Cemex,” said City Interim Community Development Director Steve Schmidt. “We noticed over a year ago that it was for sale, and because it’s situated between our Joe’s Bayou Boat Ramp and Mattie Kelly Nature Walk we thought it was a great opportunity to expand our city park.”

The city is currently under contract with Cemex to purchase the land for $2 million dollars, but the contract must first be approved by city council before the sale can move forward.

“We’ve been working rather tenaciously for over a year to negotiate with the landowners and sent them the first contract a year ago,” said Schmidt. “We have it under an option contract and according to the rules and regulations of the city we must have the land appraised before taking it before council June 6.”

Schmidt also explained that while the city would be paying for the lot upfront from city reserves, grants are almost guaranteed due to the restoration and preservation of the property.

“The grants depend on what the use of the property is going to be, but because this was an industrial park, it opens up a lot of opportunities for grants,” said Schmidt. “In fact, the (Tourist Development Council) actually reached out to us already as to the shoreline restoration and pathways.”

As for just how the land will be incorporated into the park, City Manager Greg Kisela said that there are no solid plans as of yet but if the sale goes through, a special planning meeting will be scheduled.

“We want to gain input from the community to see what exactly they want to see here,” he said. “If all goes well and the option contract is approved on June 6, then by the August-September timeframe we will do preliminary environmental due diligence and assuming nothing goes wrong, we should have it closed and start planning by the fall.”

The waterfront property could lead to added boat ramps, trails, or even a playground, but Kisela warned if the sale falls through the land could then be reopened for use as a housing development.

“If the city doesn’t acquire it, it can be used as single-home development,” he said, adding that the previous interested buyer had plans to place eight homes on the lot. “We will have almost 20 acres total out here with the acquisition of this property and it could really link the properties with a nice nature trail and increase water access for the city’s residents and visitors.”

There are currently five park developments in the works for the city of Destin. These include:

Leonard Destin Park: a newly acquired four-acre plot along Calhoun Avenue.

Clement Taylor Park: Renovations and updated facilities are planned for this park along Calhoun Avenue.

Royal Melvin Heritage Park: This lot, sandwiched between Dewey Destin’s Harborside Restaurant and Brotula’s restaurant, is scheduled for development along U.S. Highway 98 leading south to the boardwalk.

Norriego Point: Continued stabilization projects and proposed recreational amenities are in process for this city property.

Cement Plant Acquisition: This plot of land between Joe’s Bayou Boat Ramp and Mattie Kelly Park and Nature Walk is currently under contract with the city.

City Park Developments