New beachfront park in Destin's future

Officials say residents need more access to the beach

Nathan Cobb | GateHouse Media Florida

Destin city officials hope to soon give the public a new way to soak up some sun. 

In light of tourist season and the increasing difficulty of claiming a spot on the beach, the city is looking to acquire land in Crystal Beach for a public beach park.

Catherine Card, spokeswoman for the city, said there were eight parcels of land in consideration ranging from $3-$17 million.

"We know the situation that we've got where our beaches are heavily crowded, and we've got a lot of private beaches," Card said.

As of Monday, a total of $8.5 million had been allocated to the development, with $2 million from the city and another $6.5 million from the Okaloosa County Tourist Development Council.

Card, who added that the city was looking for additional sources of funding, said commissioners still needed to approve the TDC's contribution.

According to Destin's website, Captain Leonard Destin Park, located on Calhoun Avenue, is also under construction and is expected to be complete sometime in 2020.

Three other recreational venues — Captain Royal Melvin Heritage Park, Clement Taylor Park and Joe's Bayou Recreation area — are still awaiting the resources needed for renovations, the website said.

"Due to Hurricane Michael, a lot of the work obviously went over there," Card added. "Mother Nature can be very unkind."

For local Kemar Delisser, 37, who said he splits his time between Fort Walton Beach and Destin, extra public parks would give residents additional opportunities to be active during the heat of tourist season.

"It would just make it a lot better for everyone, tourists and locals," he said.

Delisser added that other efforts, including a form of public transportation along southern Okaloosa County, could also play a crucial role in alleviating some congestion.

"For a lot of locals, in the spring and summer time, they feel a little bit overwhelmed and get agitated and angry because of the heavy traffic and ... the increase of tourism," he said.

Looking ahead, Card wasn't sure when the public beach park would be complete, but said Destin wanted "to do it the right way."

She added that once more funding was found, the city would be able to get the ball rolling.

"I think overall this is going to be a very positive thing for our city, for our residents and for our visitors that we can enjoy more beach frontage here in the city of Destin," Card said.