New park along Clyde B. Wells Bridge to be named after lifelong Walton county resident

An artist rendering of the Thomas Pilcher Park slated to open in the summer of 2016.

An artist rendering of the Thomas Pilcher Park slated to open in the summer of 2016.

Once the construction on U.S. Hwy. 331 is finished along the Clyde B. Wells Bridge, there will be a welcome enhancement to those that enjoy recreating along the Choctawhatchee Bay. A new park will be on the eastern side of the waterway that will boast a fishing pier, boat ramps, picnic areas, and restrooms.

The park will be named after Thomas Pilcher, a lifelong Walton county resident. Pilcher spent many years of his life working along the bay for the Florida Dept. of Conservation as boating safety officer, working search and rescue, and enforcing fishing regulations back in the 60s and 70s. He passed away in 2007.

Pilcher enjoyed working and spending time on the Choctawhatchee Bay and was a major influence in creating a deep boat ramp for vessels to launch along the causeway.

“It was quite a moving moment when I heard the news,” said Pilchers’ son Patrick. “My father was outspoken when it came to having good public access along the bay.”

“My dad assisted U.S. Fish and Wildlife in its effort to establish the initial striped bass stocking program on the Choctawhatchee. This, I believe, preceded the stocking program by the State of Florida many years later. He also monitored the numerous oyster beds planted throughout the Bay. These beds thrived for many years but have pretty much dwindled away” Patrick added.

The District Three Florida Department of Transportation says the conceptual park rendering is close to what the park will look like when completed. They note the concept is draft and subject to change. The park’s completion will coincide with the highway’s completion, slated for the summer of 2016.

Amenities of the park are:

  • 380 ft. wooden fishing pier
  • Four boat ramps
  • Six, 55 ft. docks along the boat ramps
  • Three 24’ x 24’ picnic shelters
  • Restrooms
  • Three fishing platforms
  • Scenic overlook
  • Parking for 21 boat trailers and 71 spaces for other vehicles
  • ADA access

Click here to see more details of the proposed plans.

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Memorial Day services in Walton County May 25

americanflagGum Creek Cemetery, Glendale
8 a.m. – Gum Creek Cemetery is thought to be 160 years old. As such, it marks the final resting place for veterans from America’s wars as far back as the early 19th century, with 12 known Civil War Veterans and one confirmed Seminole War Veteran. There are many veterans from 20th Century conflicts buried in the cemetery.
Gum Creek Cemetery will be hosting their annual Memorial Day Remembrance May 25 and a celebration event to recognize the lives of those lost in battle, as well as our active and retired service men and women. The guest speaker for this year’s event will be retired Major Wade Wilmoth. Major Wilmoth is a veteran of Desert Storm, Iraqi Freedom, and Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. Major Wilmoth is currently a family care giver for the Wounded Warrior Project. For additional information please contact Tom Baker at 850-951-7278.

Gum Creek Cemetery is located just off SR-83 north of DeFuniak Springs.

DeFuniak Springs Courthouse Lawn
10 a.m. – Memorial Day will be observed on the Walton County Courthouse lawn. Everyone is invited to this short patriotic ceremony.

Gulf Cemetery, Santa Rosa Beach
10 a.m. – Gulf Cemetery will be hosting their Memorial Day service with a variety of activities starting at 10 a.m.
• Presentation of Colors by the Emerald Coast Young Marines and Vernon Bishop.
• Keynote remarks by Rev. Don Ullrich, Col. U.S.A.F. retired
• Bagpiper Robert Andruss of Emerald Coast Pipe and Drums
• Patriotic music by Nancy Jo Willis, Anita Sloan, and James McDowell
• Invocation and benediction of Rev. Pete Hyde of Community Church
• Remembering our Veterans by Janet Frost and Windy Williams
• Honoring our fallen heroes and our loved ones who have gone before us
• Flyover by antique WWII vintage planes by The War Birds
• Invitation to the public to place American flags on all known veterans grave sites.

Baytowne Wharf, Sandestin
Enjoy a Memorial Day program just before sunset, presented by Sandestin Veterans at Baytowne Wharf, Sandestin. Admission is free and open to the public.

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Walton county fishing report for May 20

bassFishing is good!

Bay: Good trout bite in the bay.
River: Shellcracker, bream, catfish along with a good bass bite right now, and some hybrids. Crappie bite a little off right now.
Salt: Pompano bite is still on along with ladyfish.

Click here for fishing forecast

Bay and river report brought to you by Copeland’s. “Where the locals shop and the tourists are welcome.”

Click here to find out more about Copeland’s.
Copeland’s Gun and Tackle Shop
17290 U.S. Hwy. 331 S
Freeport, Florida 32439

(850) 835-4277
Store hours:
Mon. – Fri.: 6 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Sat.: 6 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Sun.: Closed

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It’s blueberry picking time in Northwest Florida

blueberry3smWhere to find local sweet blueberries to pick or purchase in Walton County and the surrounding area

June and July is the time of year to head out and find tasty Florida blueberries.

In addition to a great topping for cereal or salads, blueberry pancakes, muffins and coffee cakes are also a popular homemade treat for blueberry lovers.

Many locals take advantage of the local pick-your-own farms and stock up by purchasing berries by the gallon from local growers. Since the fruit freezes well, many buy in abundance when the berries are available at their peak of sweetness.

Here’s a rundown on where and how you can locally acquire the healthy and tasty treat.

Walton County

Spring Hill Berry Farm
1163 Millard Gainey Road
DeFuniak Springs, Fla.
Call ahead – Tel: 850-892-0327
Gigi and Jim Cooper of Spring Berry Farm have about two acres of high bush and rabbit eye varieties of blueberries. They do not use pesticides or chemicals on any of their crops. Spring Hill also grows concord and muscadine grapes.
Farm is off of Coy Burgess Road on Millard Gainey Road.
Call first to make sure they are there. Cash or check only.
You pick, $5.00/gallon
They pick, $20.00/gallon
Click here for map

Click here for website

5A Farm
Stanley and Connie Arnold
769 Bartlett Road (off CR 83 in the Glendale community)
DeFuniak Springs, Fla.
Call ahead – Tel: 850-859-2767
Blueberries provided by gallon, flat or pint
They pick: $12.00/gallon – pints by request
Call before coming, delivery available.
Click here for map

Johnny and Barbara Carter
End of Carter Lane, Red Bay (just south of Red Bay Grocery)
Call ahead – Tel: 850-836-4480
You pick, $15.00/gallon (about 6 lbs.)
They pick, $20.00/gallon

Organic blueberries by the pint retail:
For The Health of It
In the Highpoint Center
2217 Scenic Highway 30A
Santa Rosa Beach, Fla. 32459
Click here for map

Twin Oaks Farm
26, Logan Lane, Grayton Beach, Florida
(850) 547-5636
Twin Oaks Farm is also at the Saturday Farmer’s Market in Seaside 9 a.m. – noon

Okaloosa County

Shockley Springs Blueberry Farm
7097 Old River Road
Baker, Fla. 32531

Shockley Springs Blueberry Farm has 10 acres of blueberries in assorted varieties. The farm also sells commercially to local grocers.
Tel: (850) 902-0160 (weekends 6 a.m. – 6 p.m. or by appt.)
Sells by the pound; a gallon bucket holds about 5 lbs.
You pick: $1.25/lb.
Fruit picked up at the farm is $20.00 each, packaged in 10 lb. boxes. Call first for availability.
Click here for map

Bay County

Dauphin Farms: Located at the corner of Old Bicycle Road and Highway 2297 in eastern Bay County. their season usually runs, depending on weather, from June through mid July.
Call 850-874-2371 for pricing, dates and times for picking.

Click here for map

Holmes County

Tison Blueberry Farm
1407 N. Waukesha St. (Hwy. 79 north of Bonifay on west side of the road)
Bonifay, Fla. 32425
Tel: 850-547-4696
Open daily (except Sun. a.m.) from 7 a.m. – 7 p.m.
You pick $1.50/lb.
Click here for map

Washington County

Gainer Blueberry Farm
2876 Orange Hill Road, Chipley, FL 32428
Open Thurs. – Sat. 7 a.m. –  7 p.m.
Sun. 1 – 6 p.m.
(850) 638-1335

To learn more about growing your own blueberry plants, go to:

Blueberry Coffee Cake

For Cake
1/4 cup salad oil
1 beaten egg
1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

For Topping
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup broken walnuts
1 tablespoon melted butter
3/4 cup fresh or thawed blueberries

Combine oil, egg and milk. Sift together dry ingredients and add to milk mixture, mix well.

In another bowl, combine topping ingredients.

Pour cake batter into a greased 9x9x2-inch pan. Spread blueberries evenly over batter. Top that with cinnamon nut mixture.
Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
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muffinBlueberry lemon corn muffins

paper muffin cup liners
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon zest
1/2 cup whole milk
2 large egg yolks
1/2 cup blueberries

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. and line six 1/3-cup muffin cups with paper liners.
Melt butter and cool. Into a large bowl sift together flour and baking powder and whisk in cornmeal, 1/2 cup sugar, lemon zest, and a generous pinch salt. In a bowl whisk together melted butter, milk, and yolks and add to flour mixture with half of blueberries, gently stirring until just combined.

Divide batter evenly among cups (batter will fill cups) and press remaining blueberries into tops of muffins. Sprinkle tops of muffins evenly with remaining tablespoon sugar. Bake muffins in middle of oven about 15 minutes, or until tops are golden and a tester comes out clean. Remove muffins from cups and cool on a rack. Muffins keep in an airtight container at room temperature 2 days.

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Gluten-Free Blueberry Corn Muffins

2 tablespoons tapioca flour plus 2 tablespoons for dusting pan
1 1/4 cups finely ground yellow cornmeal
2/3 cup white rice flour*
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup whole milk
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
4 large eggs
1 cup fresh or frozen (unthawed) blueberries (about 5 ounces)
* *Be sure to use white rice flour; brown will result in gritty muffins.

Special equipment:
Special equipment: Muffin pan with 12 (1/2-cup) cups

Position rack in lower third of oven and preheat to 400°F. Butter muffin pan and lightly dust with tapioca flour, knocking out excess.

In large bowl, whisk together tapioca flour, cornmeal, rice flour, cornstarch, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

In medium bowl, whisk together butter, milk, maple syrup, and eggs.

Using wooden spoon, stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients until fully combined. Gently fold in blueberries.

Divide batter among muffin cups, filling each cup 3/4 full. Bake until tops are domed and feel springy to the touch, and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 15 minutes. Let cool in pan 5 minutes, then turn out onto wire rack.

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Free movie night at DeFuniak Springs amphitheatre June 5

happyfeetDate/time: June 5, 7:30 p.m.

The DeFuniak Springs Special Events Committee will present “Happy Feet” on the big screen in the amphitheatre in the Lakeyard on Friday, June 5, 2015. The film will begin approximately 7:30 p.m.

Families are invited to enjoy the recreational equipment and the pleasures of Lake DeFuniak and the Lakeyard until show time. Food vendors will provide a full range of choices for your dining pleasure as well.

“Happy Feet” is a 2006 Australian-American computer animated musical – a family film offers well known stars supplying their voices including Robin Williams, Hugh Jackman, Nicole Kidman and Elijah Wood. The whimsical love story among penguin characters forms the basis for this delightful tale.

Share their adventures and delight in the incredible color animation of this film as it is presented outdoors on the big screen. Feel free to bring lawn chairs or blankets. You may also take advantage of the bleachers provided in the amphitheatre.

“Happy Feet” will be shown free of charge by the Special Events Committee as a part of the city’s continuing effort to provide quality family entertainment for area residents.

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Free admission to Topsail Hill Preserve State Park May 22 – Sept. 7

Free admission to Topsail Hill Preserve State Park May 22 – Sept. 7. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

Free admission to Topsail Hill Preserve State Park May 22 – Sept. 7. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

Beginning May 22, 2015 regular day-use admission fees will be waived for public entrance to Topsail Hill State Park through a reimbursement program administered by Visit South Walton (VSW). The program will be in effect May 22, 2015 until September 7, 2015 with VSW reimbursing the state park up to $25,000 for entrance fees during this time for visitors and residents.

Topsail Hill Preserve State Park’s tram service shall operate service each day 9:00 a.m. until sunset at least twice per hour to provide transportation to the Park’s beach access from the Park’s public parking lot. This program is to increase beach access parking availability along 30A, increase awareness of outdoor recreation opportunities, and increase visitation to the park.

Topsail Hill Preserve State Park is located at 7525 W. Scenic Highway 30A, Santa Rosa Beach, Florida 32459. For more information, call (850) 267-8330. ::MAP::

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Guided canoe tour of Western Lake at Grayton Beach State Park May 29

greategretwesternlakeDate/time: Wednesday May 29th at 9:00 a.m. till 11:00 a.m.

Enjoy a canoe tour of Western Lake channel and outfall with a Grayton Beach Park Services Specialist. They will lead you on an informative trip on Western Lake discussing the importance and rarity of coastal dune lakes and what animal/birds call the lakes home. Please sign-up at the ranger station prior to the day of the event. Event is open to the first 9 guests to sign-up at the ranger station. Participants that sign-up should meet at the boat ramp parking/canoe launch area. This tour will take 1—2 hours. Sunscreen and drinking water are suggested items to bring.

Directions: Grayton Beach State Park is located South of U.S. 98 approximately halfway between Panama City Beach and Destin. Take County Road 283 south of U.S. 98, turn left at the stop sign on 30A. Approximately half a mile east of the intersection of County Road 30A and County Road 283 the entrance is on the right.

Contact: (850) 267-8300 for more information.

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2015 Old Nick’s Redfish Roundup winners announced

Father and son team Steve and Hunter Tashik reeled in first place. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

Father and son team Steve and Hunter Tashik reeled in first place. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

Windy and rough conditions on the Choctawhatchee Bay didn’t hold back 66 teams competing May 16 in the 10th Annual Old Nick’s Redfish Roundup tournament. The popular fishing tournament was hosted by Treylermade Tournaments in a partnership with Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance, with a portion of the proceeds going to the Alliance.

Steve Tashik and his son Hunter reeled in first place.

Final team standings with total weight of two redfish:

1st Place) Steve & Hunter Tashik – 12.56 lbs.
2nd Place) Cody Barkley & Frank Broginez – 12.25 lbs.
3rd Place) Don Graff & Bill Oswell – 11.92 lbs.
4th Place) Josh Glidden & Andrew Meslow – 11.04 lbs.
5th Place) Fred Meyers & Bo Sullivan – 10.43 lbs.
6th Place) Ty Spikes & Mike Otte – 10.29 lbs.
7th Place) John Williams & Justin DeMass – 9.78 lbs.
8th Place) Sean Sapp & Ashley Sarau – 9.66 lbs.
9th Place) Mac Higgins & Larry Henley – 9.51 lbs.
10th Place) Jim Chalkley & Darren Parker – 9.21 lbs.

Lightest Two) Austin & Case Woodard – 4.83 lbs.
Spots Count) Sean Sapp & Ashley Sarau – 25 spots
Mystery Weight – 10.72 lbs.) Fred Meyers & Bo Sullivan – 10.43 lbs.

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Learn about coastal dune lakes at Topsail Hill Preserve State Park May 29

campbelllakesmDate/time: May 29, 1 – 2 p.m.

These rare lakes are found only in a few places worldwide, including right here at Topsail Hill. Walton County has 15 of them along the coast and two are protected inside the park. This ranger led program will cover what makes the lakes in this area so unique and how they are being protected. The program will take place in the clubhouse, enter through the main gate and park staff will direct you to the clubhouse. Entry fee is $6.00.

Topsail Hill Preserve State Park is located at 7525 W. Scenic Highway 30A, Santa Rosa Beach, Florida 32459. For more information, call (850) 267-8330. ::MAP::

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Public hearing regarding proposed changes to coastal dune lake protection zones May 18

walton-county-logoThe Walton County Board of County Commissioners will hold a public hearing on Monday, May 18, 2015, at 5 p.m. or as soon thereafter as may be heard at the South Walton County Courthouse Annex, at 31 Coastal Centre Blvd, Santa Rosa Beach, Florida.  The following items will be heard:

CDLPZ Comprehensive Plan Ordinance – An Ordinance of the Board of County Commissioners of Walton County amending Policy C-1.4.1 of the Walton County Comprehensive Plan regarding the Coastal Dune Lake Protection Zone and Coastal Protection Zone; providing for severability; codification and an effective date. (Transmittal)

CDLPZ LDC Ordinance – An Ordinance of the Board of County Commissioners of Walton County amending Sections 4.02.00 and 4.03.00 to the Walton County Land Development Code regarding the Coastal Dune Lake Protection Zone and Coastal Protection Zone; providing for severability; codification and an effective date.

Proposed project(s) or plan amendment(s) may be inspected by the public from 7:00 AM to 5:30 PM, Monday through Friday at Walton County Planning and Development Services located at 31 Coastal Center Blvd, Suite 100, Santa Rosa Beach, FL 32549 or 47 North 6th Street, DeFuniak Springs, FL 32435.

Interested parties may appear at the public hearing and be heard with respect to the proposed project(s) or plan amendment(s).

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