'Just an open white beach:' Destin opens up the view, clears the way for Tarpon Beach Park
In less than 15 minutes the Gulf of Mexico was visible.
“I’m extremely happy to see that view … that beach is going back to the public where it belongs,” Destin City Manager Lance Johnson said as he watched the one-story building being torn down to make way for the Tarpon Beach Park.
With temperatures in the mid-50s and the sun shining, about a 100 people came out Friday morning for the Tarpon Beach Expansion Celebration.
“This has been a dream of mine to open a corridor like this,” Johnson told the folks gathered for the celebration.
The Tarpon Beach access project is a partnership between the City of Destin, the Okaloosa County Commission, the Tourist Development Council and Trust for Public Land.
The project will clear the way for nearly 340-feet of beach front access adjacent to the Tarpon Beach Trail located on Scenic Highway 98 in the Crystal Beach area.
In August, the city of Destin and the Okaloosa County Commission entered an inter-local agreement to purchase the beach front property adjacent to Destin’s Tarpon Street public beach access. The deal, negotiated by the nonprofit Trust for Public Land, called for the purchase of three separate beachfront parcels for just over $14 million.
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On Friday all entities involved were represented as the building, previously owned by Dieter Blasbichler, was torn down in a matter of minutes.
"It’s sad, but life goes on,” Blasbichler said.
“It’s good to have beach access for all the people in the neighborhood. It was old buildings, it had to go sooner or later,” Blasbichler said of the buildings that have been around since the 1960s.
“This new beach access is a phenomenal opportunity,” Okaloosa County Commission Chairman Trey Goodwin said.
“It’s a vision coming to fruition … and it’s only happening because of the partnerships. Our community deserves to enjoy these assets,” Goodwin said.
And the thing Goodwin said he liked best about the project is that it is being paid for by the tourists that visit Okaloosa County.
The costs for demolition, design, permitting, construction and contingency for the Tarpon Beach access park are estimated at $2.7 million. The new park will provide an additional three acres of beachfront for public use. And all funding is provided by tourism bed tax revenue.
“With this being public beach, there will be no commercial activity, especially beach chairs,” Destin Mayor Bobby Wagner said.
“A lot of people in Crystal Beach have problems finding space. So, obviously there is more space here to work with. More importantly, there is no commercial space at this location,” Wagner said.
“It will truly be a public beach, which I think is a big win for the local community,” Wagner said.
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City Councilman Matthew Sweetser was smiling as he watched the building go down.
"I've got goose bumps just seeing more beach access for us locals to attend and enjoy with our family,” Sweetser said.
Councilwoman Teresa Hebert was elated as well as she held her ceremonial hammer in the air as the heavy equipment tore away at the building.
“It’s going to be fantastic for not only the visitors, but more importantly our residents will now have a place to come — have their coffee in the morning, no obstruction, no beach vendors, just an open white beach with beautiful blue water here in Destin. Happy to have it done,” Hebert said.
“It looks awesome … now we just got to clean it up,” she said looking at the pile of rubble.
“It’s a great day,” said Okaloosa County Commissioner Mel Ponder, who lives in Destin.
“To have this opportunity is a big win. The view corridor just expanded tremendously along this road,” he said once the building came down.
“The power of partnership, this is the result of that … it’s a game changer,” Ponder said.
“We’ll have a park for people to access the beach, it's a game changer,” Ponder reiterated.
The property will be city owned and operated as a city park.
Amenities for the Tarpon Beach Park include parking for regular and LSV vehicles, bathrooms, outdoor showers, pavilion, ADA-compliant walkway to the beach and access point for emergency vehicles.
Construction is expected to be complete in spring of 2024.