Businesses ready to move forward in 2021 with new projects

Tina Harbuck
The Destin Log

After an unprecedented year like 2020 with a pandemic threatening closures to businesses and health issues, people are ready to move forward in 2021.

Destin Water Users is always looking ahead to what each year will bring, and even as far out as five years, according to Lockwood Wernet, DWU's general manager, 

"In addition, we are constantly monitoring new legislation that may require new procedures or construction at our facilities," Wernet said.

As for 2021, it will bring "new and continuing projects," he added.

Artist Eric Henn uses a bucket lift to paint sea life murals on the new water tower off Calhoun Avenue in Destin in this photo from March 2020.

At the 2020 Tank of the Year site, which portrays beautiful sea life from turtles to dolphins and even grouper, DWU will install a new well to replace the aging one on the adjacent property. 

More:April 2020 - Mural artist Eric Henn takes his talents to new Destin water tower

"We are also looking to expand our reclaimed water system," Wernet said. "Recent hurricanes in the area have encouraged us to look at some of our older facilities, and in the fall of 2021 DWU will be taking on a multi-year project to build hardened structures to withstand major wind events."

And by mid-year, Wernet said the utility will have new headworks, which removes trash and grit from the wastewater process. 

"DWU also plans to start a multi-year reclaimed water meter change-out program to upgrade our existing meters to the newer style meter ... as replacement parts are no longer readily available," he said.

The Destin History and Fishing Museum also is looking to do a few upgrades and bring in a few new exhibits in 2021.

The Destin Fishing Museum offers a window to Destin's past as well as a look at many of the fish found in the Gulf of Mexico.

The museum will get a new multimedia exhibit in the Rodeo Gallery with video of fish catches, according to Kathy Marler-Blue, executive director of the museum.

More:Destin History and Fishing Museum turns 15

Museum officials also are looking at restoring the Lil Jimmy mullet boat with a pole-type barn to protect it.

Also on Marler-Blue's list of projects for 2021 are:

  • A new multimedia exhibit titled "Dive Destin"
  • An additional exhibit to the Fisherman's Logbook/iPad on stands featuring boats/captains of seine boats to current boats. Data collected from Rodeo books and other data during the years.
  • Add stories to the "Bruce on the Loose" exhibit, which features recorded stories from Rodeo weighmaster Bruce Cheves.
  • Renovate the fishing equipment exhibit.

The Destin History and Fishing Museum is at 108 Stalhman Ave. in Destin and is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

More:Destin museum has interactive exhibit based on trees from Destin, Marler homesteads

Destin Commons, which is open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily, is located at the crossroads of Danny Wuerffel Way and Emerald Coast Parkway. It's also ready to turn the corner in 2021.

Destin Commons will add a few new businesses in 2021 as well as welcome back its series of events.

Destin Commons, home to more than 85 shops, will get a couple additions such as Simply Mac in early January and then LensCrafters in late spring, according to Heather Ruiz, senior director of marketing and leasing at Destin Commons.

"We are looking forward to hosting our events again this year and have a full lineup as we usually have in the past," Ruiz said.

More:May 2020 - Destin Commons is up and running, mostly

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In 2020 because of COVID-19, Destin Commons had to forgo several events.

However, Commons officials are gearing up for 2021 with four of its signature events, 

There will be the Mardi Gras Masquerade on Feb. 12; Smoke on the Coast on July 3;  Halloween Haunt on Oct. 29; and Santa's Arrival on Nov. 19.

Destin Commons also will host fundraisers for local nonprofits, including Dog Harmony's Hops for Hounds, the Boys and Girls Club Mac & Cheese Festival, The Arc's Burning Up the Beaches, the Children Advocacy Center's Cornhole Tournament and the Junior League's Touch-a-Truck, Ruiz said.

Although The Track doesn't have any major expansions planned for 2021, its representatives said they are thankful for the days of business they had in 2020.

A visitor to The Track in Destin puts her driving skills to the test on the amusement park's three-story wooden go-kart track.

"We are very grateful to have been open for business in 2020," said Meg Norwood, vice president of marketing for The Track. "We look forward to a strong year with renewed tourism and a healthy community."

The Track has been in business in Destin since Memorial Day 1989.

Officials at Big Kahuna's Water & Adventure Park, which has kept customers slipping and sliding on its many water rides since 1986, have some plans on the drawing board, but nothing set in stone.

Guests travel down Thunder River during Big Kahuna's Oktoberfest.

"We are working hard to improve the park at this time and we do have plans for this upcoming season to make some new additions to our Adventure Park. Unfortunately, nothing has been finalized at this time," according to Mike Stoltz of APEX Park Group.

APEX bought the Big Kahuna’s property in 2014.

But before summer kicks in, the Destin Little League Association will be ready to hit the ball field in early spring.

As a matter of fact, registration for the 2021 season is now open, according to Destin Little League Association President Howard Wortman.

In 2020, the Little League season was cut short in the spring after only a week of play because of COVID-19, but then picked back up with a condensed season in the fall.

But Wortman and others said they are looking for a good 2021 season. The registration process is easy and can be done online at

More:2019 - OPENING DAY: Destin Little League kicks off the season (PHOTOS)

The league offers T-ball, coach pitch, machine pitch, minors and majors baseball and softball.

Wortman said they are playing intermediate baseball for those 11 to 13 years old.

"I am hoping this will help to increase our numbers with the older ones. Intermediate baseball will definitely prepare our kids for middle school, with leadoffs, balks and the 70-feet base paths," Wortman said.

The Destin Little League Park will get a new batting cage for 2021.

New for the league and going into 2021 is a covered 30-foot by 110-foot batting cage located between the major league field and the T-ball field.

"We are super excited," Wortman said of the covered cage.

The cage will have lights, turf and a pitching mound.

"A big thank you to the city of Destin Park and Recreation Department for helping to get this job complete. It's an unbelievable addition to our park," Wortman said.

Opening Day for Destin Little League is tentatively set for March 6.