Beautification project to begin Tuesday

Sheri Kotzum | 315-4353 | @DestinLogSheri |
Trees were planted by Trees on the Coast along Gulf Shore Drive on Holiday Isle as a part of their "Plant a tree to Honor a Loved One”project. [CONTRIBUTED PHOTO/TREES ON THE COAST]

Airport Road is getting a facelift.

Thanks to a joint effort between the city and the local non-profit Trees on the Coast, 49 oak trees and 1,400 African Irises will be planted in the median along Airport Road.

Trees on the Coast founder Allen French said this beautification project has been a long time coming.

“We’ve been working on this project for a year and a half,” French said.

Trees on the Coast will begin the plantings on Tuesday and hope to be completed by the end of the month, French said.

French founded the nonprofit in an effort to improve the beauty of Okaloosa and Walton counties while making them cleaner, greener and more inviting through trees.

“This is a way for people to really see their money go back into the community,” French said.

As a non-profit, Trees on the Coast relies on donations, sponsorships and a fundraising event called Spamma Pajamma, which is a pajama party and Spam sculpting contest to “help ward off hurricanes and benefit Trees on the Coast.”

The organization and board members work with local municipalities to help identify planting opportunities and areas that need enhancement.

Former projects have included planting trees on Holiday Isle, Main Street, at Destin Middle School, at several Habitat for Humanity homes and at the Mattie Kelly Arts Foundation.

Eleven of the oaks being planted in the Airport Road median will be dedicated to the military service members who died during a training exercise in March 2015 when their UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crashed into the Santa Rosa Sound. Seven Marines and four Army soldiers were on a routine nighttime training mission when the in-air accident happened after leaving from Destin Executive Airport, which is the home base of two Black Hawks used for military training purposes.   

“People have already put things along the fence line in memory of our fallen soldiers,” French said. “We really wanted to do something in their honor.”

A ceremony for the dedication will be at the Destin Executive Airport at 10 a.m. Oct. 20. Family members of the fallen heroes, local government officials, military members and first responders will be present. The public is invited to attend to show respect and support.