New public beach, parks and zoning top list of accomplishments for Destin in 2021

Tina Harbuck
The Destin Log

After working through the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, city officials have managed to press on in 2021 and get some big-ticket items accomplished. 

Topping the list of accomplishments was acquiring a new public beach for residents and visitors to use in the Crystal Beach area. 

The Captain Royal Melvin Heritage Park currently under construction along the Destin Harbor will have a handicap-accessible ramp at left, restroom facilities at right and a 40-foot wide set of stairs leading down the bluff and to the docks of Destin. At far left is Dewey Destin's Harborside restaurant.

“Two parcels were acquired this past year, tripling the public beach area available at the Shores of Crystal Beach Park,” Destin City Manager Lance Johnson said in an email.

Those parcels are located on the east end of Destin. 

Next on the list, but not visible to folks yet, was the city staff completing revisions to the Comprehensive Plan and Zoning Districts. 

Destin City Manager Lance Johnson is pictured in a regular Destin City Council meeting in October 2021.

More about town:Christmas drive-thru style at the Destin Community Center a big hit with a big Buddy

"This was a huge accomplishment that will help guide Destin’s future development and redevelopment,” Johnson said. 

The city also started construction on the Captain Royal Melvin Heritage Park on the harbor between Brotula’s Seafood House and Steamer and Dewey Destin’s on the Harbor. 

The Captain Royal Melvin Heritage Park currently under construction along the Destin Harbor. The park, which is adjacent to Dewey Destin's Harborside restaurant, will offer a scenic overlook of the harbor as well as easy access to the Destin docks.

“When completed it will serve as the public pedestrian gateway to the Destin harbor,” Johnson said. 

The park will include a public observation platform overlooking the harbor, restrooms, play areas, interpretive signage and a resource room to hold small group activities and classes. 

One of the bigger accomplishments that is being used on a daily bases is Captain Leonard Destin Park on Choctawhatchee Bay. 

A view looking south toward the Destin Harbor at the new Captain Royal Melvin Heritage Park currently under construction in Destin.

Although construction on the park was completed in August of 2020, Hurricane Sally hit about the time the city was planning the official opening. The hurricane washed away some of the beach and the park was closed. Repairs were made and the park was open most of last winter. 

But the official opening, complete with a ribbon cutting, took place in May. 

More from around town:Donna Barton, 'a lifelong educator that loved,' retires from Destin Elementary after 35 years

Officials gathered in May 2021 for a ribbon cutting ceremony at Captain Leonard Destin Park, located on Calhoun Avenue overlooking Choctawhatchee Bay. The site was the homestead property of Leonard and Martha J. McCullom Destin and their family.

The park has a public swimming beach, splash-pad, heron rookery, pier, kayak launch, playground and restrooms. 

It is “quickly becoming a favorite gathering spot for residents and visitors alike,” Johnson said. 

Opening of Captain Leonard Destin Park:'Our best kept secret': The 'jewel' of Destin parks is now open and ready to shine

Another achievement, but not as visible as a park, was implementing the new COMPASS/Ener-Gov software system to manage the permitting and planning process for the Community Development and Code Compliance departments. 

“This new system is reducing the processing time for permits and reviews, and allows applicants to enter and search information online,” Johnson said. 

And with the new year just days away, there are goals and projects to accomplish in the days ahead. 

Topping the list of goals in 2022, according to Johnson, are: 

  • Acquire additional public beach for residents and visitors to enjoy. 
  • Complete construction of Captain Royal Melvin Park 
  • Continue planning work required to implement phase one of the undergrounding of overhead utility lines from the Marler Bridge to Airport Road. 
The new Captain Leonard Destin Park on Calhoun Drive has a fishing pier and spot to launch kayaks and paddle boards into Choctawhatchee Bay.
  • Continue efforts to attract and retain highly qualified city staff. 
  • Complete the alignment of the Land Development Code with the city’s Comprehensive Plan 
  • Implement the Clement Taylor Park renovation project primarily funded through a Restore Act grant. 
  • Implement the city’s new way-finding program.