Capt. Royal Melvin Heritage Park to be 'gateway' to the harbor

Tina Harbuck
The Destin Log

From June White Decker Park on the Gulf of Mexico, to Dalton Threadgill Little League Park and Capt. Leonard Destin Park on Choctawhatchee Bay, the city of Destin has a lot to offer in the way of parks and recreation. And in the near future, the city will be adding one more to that list of a dozen or more parks to enjoy. 

Capt. Royal Melvin Heritage Park, located at 206 Harbor Boulevard between Dewey Destin’s on the Harbor and Brotula’s Seafood House and Steamer, will be a “public pedestrian gateway to the Destin harbor,” as City Manager Lance Johnson once deemed it. 

When completed, the new Royal Melvin Heritage Park will feature stairs and a ramp to the Destin Harbor and a tree lined grass park with benches.

Construction on the park began last year and “is ongoing,” said Catherine Card, public information manager for the city. 

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When complete, 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. 

“The restroom building has been constructed and is being worked on at this time,” Card said. 

Workers from GLC Contracting were on site last week working on the roof of the restroom building. 

A construction crew works on the restroom and observation deck at the new Royal Melvin Heritage Park, which overlooks the Destin Harbor next to Dewey Destin's Harborside Restaurant.

“We’re putting up boards to hold the concrete in place,” said Turk Turczynski of GLC, who added they hope to start pouring the concrete any day. 

The roof over the restrooms will be the site of the public observation area. 

In addition to working on the roof, they were working on the stairway down to the harbor. The stairs are about 30-feet wide. Standing at the top of the stairway and looking down, it is obvious why Johnson called it a “gateway” to the harbor. 

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Turczynski said they hope to finish up the steps and the roof in the next few days. 

Just to the west of the stairway is a wide ramp that also leads down to the harbor. 

“The stairs and ramp have been built, pavers are almost done,” Card said. 

A construction worker finishes the steps leading down to the Destin Harbor waterfront at the new Royal Melvin Heritage Park in Destin.

Once all the larger items are done, work will begin on the upper portion of the park, which will include pathways, benches and picnic tables. 

Although the park is taking shape, no opening date has been set as of yet, according to Card. 

Who was Capt. Royal Melvin? 

Royal, who died in 1995, was born in 1940 to Destin pioneers Capt. Millard (Pete) and Sarah Melvin at their residence at 206 Harbor Boulevard. Millard was one of four sons that came to Destin in 1900 to fish with Capt. Leonard Destin, according to the Destin History and Fishing Museum archives. They all settled on Destin harbor and became excellent fishermen. 

A construction worker finishes the steps leading down to the Destin Harbor waterfront at the new Royal Melvin Heritage Park in Destin.

Royal began fishing at an early age, seine net fishing alongside his father and uncles O.T., John and Jewel Melvin. 

At the age of 18, Royal became Destin’s youngest U.S. Coast Guard licensed captain, a feat unheard of at the time, and joined the world-renowned Destin Charter Fishing Fleet. 

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He purchased his first charter boat in 1963, the Venture. In 1965, Royal caught his and Destin’s first Grand Slam, a blue marlin, white marlin and sailfish, in a single day on a single fishing trip. He caught his second Grand Slam in 1967 and his third in July of 1977. His record of three Grand Slams still holds today, according to the archives. 

Destin's newest park, Royal Melvin Heritage Park, is taking shape on the Destin Harbor next to Dewey Destin's Harborside Restaurant.

Royal was also very much involved with the annual Destin Fishing Rodeo held in October each year. He served as Rodeo chairman for two years, but always fished the event. During one Rodeo, Royal brought in 14 billfish within 11 days of fishing. He also caught the first yellowfin tuna out of Destin, a species that was previously thought not to inhabit Destin waters, according to the archives. 

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Melvin was also involved in the community and city government. He served as a director of the Chamber of Commerce, and was a founding member of the Destin Fisherman’s Co-Op. 

Destin's newest park, Royal Melvin Heritage Park, is taking shape on the Destin Harbor next to Dewey Destin's Harborside Restaurant.

According to the archives, Royal also allowed his property to be incorporated into the overall plan for the Fishing Fleet Dock, he was a member of the original Harbor Board and held many offices in the Destin Charter Boat Association and was awarded a Life Time Achievement Award from the DCBA.