Choctawhatchee Audubon Society meeting Aug. 4

CAScolorlogoThe Choctawhatchee Audubon Society’s monthly meeting will focus on the natural history and conservation of the Bahama Parrot. Although the Bahama Parrot is one of the closest native parrots to the United States, people rarely know of this species. Dr. Caroline Stahala has been conducting behavioral and demographic studies on this parrot for 14 years now and will be presenting on the species’ natural history. This parrot exhibits a unique behavior in that it nests underground in limestone solution cavities. This also poses unique management challenges which other parrots do not face. The Bahamas National Trust has addressed this challenge as well as other conservation issues through its management. Join us to learn more about the Bahama Parrot, a charismatic and unique bird species.

The meeting will be held in room 130 of the student services building 400 at the Northwest Florida State College Niceville campus. Socializing begins at 6:30 p.m. and the program at 7:00 p.m. Admission is free and open to the public. Call or e-mail Dr Don Baltz at 255 252-2760, [email protected]. For more information

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New enhancements installed at Choctaw Beach Park

New boat ramp at Choctaw Beach Park. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

New boat ramp at Choctaw Beach Park. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

The long awaited improvements to the Choctaw Beach Park and boat ramp have been completed. The project consisted of construction of a new more accessible boat ramp, improved paved parking area and the construction of new bathroom facilities. Walton County Facility Maintenance crews have also provided some additional landscaping to the site.

Funding for the project was provided by the Florida Wildlife Conservation Commission through the Florida Boating Improvement Program, and the Board of County Commissioners.

More than a boat ramp, the Choctaw Beach Park offers a playground, boardwalk with seating, and spectacular sunsets. ::Map::

The park is located at 12481 State Highway 20 West, Freeport, FL 32435.

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Health advisory issued for Morrison Springs July 20

healthdeptlogoUPDATE July 22 -Effective immediately, the Florida Department of Health in Walton County is rescinding the July 20, 2016 health advisory for the Morrison Springs bathing place.

DOH Walton feels that water quality in this area has improved considerably due to the reduction in bacteria levels.

DOH will continue to monitor the water quality in this area monthly and routinely advise the public of results.  For more information, contact the DOH Walton at 850-892-8021.

Walton County July 20, 2016 – A health advisory is issued for Morrison Springs.  The Advisory is issued based on the criteria for fecal indicator bacteria.

This should be considered a potential health risk to the bathing public and swimming is not recommended.  Samples taken are above the public health threshold for fecal indicator bacteria. Water quality exceedances are based upon the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) recommended standard of no more than 61 Enterococci CFU/100mL, or 235 E. coli CFU/100mL in any single sample.  Sample results for July 20, 2016, indicate 364 and 220 Enterococci CFU/100ml.

The water will be re-sampled next week. When re-sampling indicates that the water is within the satisfactory range, the advisory will be lifted.

The Florida Department of Health in Walton County monitors monthly water samples submitted by public bathing places during their operation season. The water samples are being analyzed for enteric bacteria (fecal coliform enterococci or E. coli) that normally inhabit the intestinal tract of humans and warm- blooded animals, and indicate the presence of pathogens which may cause swimming related diseases including gastrointestinal disease, ear and eye ailments, and skin rashes and infections. The presence of fecal indicator bacteria is an indication of fecal pollution, which may come from storm water runoff, domestic pets, wildlife, and human waste (sewage).

Sampling is also conducted by other county health departments at marine beaches and results can be found at Department of Health’s Beach Water Quality website at www.floridahealth.gov/environmental-health/beach-water-quality/index.html.

For more information, contact the Florida Department of Health in Walton County (850) 892-8021.

About the Florida Department of Health
The department works to protect, promote and improve the health of all people in Florida through integrated state, county and community efforts.

Follow them on Twitter at @HealthyFla and on Facebook. For more information about the Florida Department of Health please visit www.FloridaHealth.gov.

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Walton County fishing report for July 20

RedfishFishing is good

Bay: Great trout and redfish bite.

River: Good flathead catfish bites along with an abundance of mullet at the mouth of the river.

Some frog gigging at night.

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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View the sun and the stars at Topsail Hill Preserve State Park July 30

starsDate/time: July 30, 2016 – 4:30 – 9:30 p.m.

Topsail Hill Preserve State parks invites your family to enjoy Topsail under the Stars. View the sun and stars from the park with the Northwest Florida Astronomy Association. The NWFAA will be onsite with solar telescopes set up for instruction on how to view the constellations, the sun, and planets after sunset. There will be plenty of telescopes but you are welcome to bring your own. The park entrance closes at 8 p.m. so please arrive before then. Enter the park through the main gate and park staff will direct you to the field by Tram Stop 1.

Free entry to the park through Sept. 5. 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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Kellogg Park: A south Walton nature lovers’ generous legacy remains mostly ignored

A beautiful view from the kayak, canoe, paddle board launch area. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

A beautiful view from the kayak, canoe, paddle board launch area. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

Santa Rosa Beach residents Patricia and Louis Kellogg lived long and fulfilling lives. After raising five children, the outdoor enthusiasts enjoyed their retirement on the Choctawhatchee Bay.

With a passion for nature and double masters degree in education, Patricia Kellogg donated much of her time to developing reading programs for children at the Santa Rosa Beach Coastal Branch Library. She was also an active member of the Choctawhatchee Audubon Society (CAS).

Kellogg enjoyed sharing the wonders of nature to such an extent, she deeded her 10+-acre land and home to the CAS in 2003, four years after Louis passed away. She wanted the property to be facilitated for something special in nature, and to provide a quiet place where children could learn. When she bequeathed her land, there were a few restrictive covenants reflecting her passion.

A plaque next to the parking lot on Nursery Road honors Patricia and Louis Kellogg. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

A plaque next to the parking lot on Nursery Road honors Patricia and Louis Kellogg. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

Excerpts from Patricia Kellogg’s warranty deed:

“Grantor, as the sole owner in fee simple of certain real property in Walton County, Florida more particularly described in Exhibit A, has chosen to donate. The Property possesses natural, scenic, education and/or recreational value of great importance to Grantor, the citizens and visitors to Walton County and the people of the State of Florida. Grantor intends that the Conservation Values of this Property be preserved and maintained by its specific and sole use as a wildlife nature preserve and educational center without commercial activities thereon, but including appropriate improvements for bird watching and hiking trails for residents and visitors, and subject to the right of the Choctawhatchee Audubon Society to have perpetual access to and use of the Property without charge for the purpose of its bird watching activities…”

“It is the purpose of these restrictions to assure that the Property will be retained forever predominantly in a condition to permit bird watching and hiking and to prevent use of the Property that would significantly impair or interfere with such activities…”

“Subsequent to this conveyance, Grantee shall have until July 31, 2004 to pursue the permitting of any improvements for the use of the Property as a wildlife nature preserve and educational center, and until date, the following reverter provision shall not be effective. After July 31, 2004, this conveyance shall revert to the heirs of Grantor in the event that the Property is not used, for a period of six months or longer, as a wildlife nature preserve and educational center without commercial activities thereon, but including appropriate improvements for bird watching and hiking trails for residents and visitors…”

Kellogg Park is located at the corner of Nursery Road and Nellie Drive.

Kellogg Park is located at the corner of Nursery Road and Nellie Drive in Santa Rosa Beach.

The CAS worked with Kellogg on developing a vision plan to fulfill her wishes.

“She was the coolest lady, I loved her,” said Audubon member and nature enthusiast Judi Russell.

However, CAS soon realized the project was more than the local group could manage, and the land was given to the Walton County Board of County Commissioners (BCC) to develop. It was soon turned over to the Walton County Tourist Development Council (TDC) to continue her vision.

Due to the intricacy of creating a viable plan, Kellogg amended her covenant to extend the deadline of development until Dec. 31, 2008.

However, on May 26, 2006, Patricia Kellogg passed away, never to see her vision materialize.

In the spring of 2008, CAS and the TDCs Cultural Heritage and Nature Based Tourism Committee created visioning workshops for the park, and a conceptual plan was developed. The TDC fully funded the project during the time with a portion of the 4th cent tourist occupancy tax (the fourth cent goes to product development including shoulder season marketing, arts/nature/cultural tourism, beach safety and education to include the lifeguard and code enforcement programs).

“The Kellogg Property was one of my favorite and most fulfilling projects when I was with the TDC because I felt in some way I was playing a small part in carrying out Mrs. Kellogg’s wishes,” said former new product development manager Tiffany McCaskill Henderson.

The park’s development design plan was in three phases. The first phase was to clear the land and build a trail system with educational kiosks. The second phase was to build the parking lot. The third phase was to build a nature center.

Local nature lover and biologist Sarah Kalinoski was contracted by the TDC to come up with a conceptual plan that reflected Kellogg’s vision. The plan was submitted and soon after architectural drawings completed. Click here to view Kellogg recommendations and Kellogg nature center plans.

Heavily graveled parking lot on Nursery Road. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

Heavily graveled parking lot on Nursery Road. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

On the eve of Kellogg’s covenant deadline, the TDC installed a 20-space parking lot, storm water infrastructure, and a fountain on the Nursery Road area. A primitive clearing was made for a trail looping through the land and connecting to the bay side parcel.

In January 2009, at the Walton County Board of County Commissioners meeting, District 5 Commissioner Cecilia Jones requested to move one of the two structures from the Kellogg property to Cessna Park. The plan was to house the District 5 office, and incorporate the Scenic Corridor Grant to fund the move. The Commission unanimously approved her request. However, it was discovered both structures were in dilapidated form and soon demolished.

In April 2010, the TDC hosted the dedication of a plaque honoring Pat and Louis Kellogg for their donation of the property. The plaque was installed next to the water fountain on the Nursery Road parking lot. At the dedication, the TDC announced that the BCC had directed them to carry out Kellogg’s wishes and establish hiking trails, and eventually a nature center that will educate children and families on local plant and animal species and the history of the Choctawhatchee Bay.

Overgrown trail at Kellogg Park. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

Overgrown trail at Kellogg Park. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

At the Dec. 13, 2011 TDC meeting, executive director Dawn Moliterno came forward with a recommendation to council members that they give over the management and development of the nature center property back to the BCC. She explained that the ownership of the property had remained that of the BCC since the donation. Her recommendation was based on a review and determination by TDC legal counsel that the property was not something that the TDC could continue to invest tourist development dollars in.

The recommendation received approval by the council members, and later that same day, at the request of Moliterno on behalf of the TDC, the BCC voted to accept the property for oversight and management. This was with the understanding that the TDC would continue to market the nature center.

District 5 Commissioner Cecilia Jones expressed excitement and optimism about future use of the Kellogg property.

“It’s a very beautiful piece of property,” Jones said, “and I’ve got some really great ideas for using it with our children. So I want to be very active, if we can come up with the money.”

In June 2013, Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance (CBA) director Julie Terrell approached the TDC with a plan to boost eco tourism in South Walton and facilitate the bay side portion of the Kellogg property for eco-based activities. CBA is a local nonprofit organization focused on optimum utilization of area water resources and active in four program areas: monitoring restoration, education and research.

CBA and the TDC collaborated to offer activities at the bay front area, and the land was cleared. A kayak/canoe/sup launch area, water spigot, shower, and fountain were installed along with four picnic tables, grills and benches. A fence and driveway area finished off the enhancements. However, there are no restrooms.

Paddlers prepare to take off for inaugural ride in the Chcotawhatchee Bay from Kellogg Bayfront Park. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

Paddlers prepare to take off for inaugural ride in the Chcotawhatchee Bay from Kellogg Bayfront Park. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

A ribbon cutting for the bay front area was held in June 2014.

The largest portion of the park, located on Nursery Road, has not been developed beyond a parking lot, storm water infrastructure, water fountain, and dedication plaque. There is a roughly cut trail, however, no interpretive kiosks, or any directional signage indicating its location. The wooded area is heavily overgrown, and requires forest management to enable native flora and fauna to inhabit and thrive.

Seawall at launch area in disrepair. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

Seawall at launch area in disrepair. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

Will Patricia Kellogg’s wishes for a nature center, and special place for children to quietly learn ever come to fruition? One can only hope, however the future is not looking bright.

As of July 2016, Walton County has no plans for development of Kellogg Park other than a seawall repair, according to public information manager Louis Svehla. Current TDC executive director Jay Tusa and District 5 County commissioner Cindy Meadows have not responded to our inquiries.

Kellogg “Bay front” Park is located at the north end of Nellie Drive off of Nursery Road. ::MAP::

Editorial note: The Kellogg property is more than likely the only parcel of land Walton County possesses that is large enough to develop a nature center. This space has the potential to house an exceptional home to education. Imagine a coastal version of the E.O. Wilson Biophilia Center or the Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve. It is truly unfortunate Walton County lacks the vision to fulfill the once in a lifetime opportunity.

Some information in this story provided by The DeFuniak Herald archives.

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Camp Helen State Park hosting movie, food and fun on July 27

camphelenlodgeThe evening begins at 5:30 p.m. in the park’s Recreation Hall with a brief interpretive program led by a Camp Helen Park Ranger or other expert. The program will be followed by an old-fashioned campfire cookout of hot dogs and s’mores provided by the Friends of Camp Helen. Each evening will conclude with a family-oriented movie in the Recreation Hall, where seating will be provided.

A parent or guardian must accompany all children.

These special movie nights are sponsored by Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection and the Friends of Camp Helen State Park. Admission into the park for this event is free, although donations are accepted. Donations will go directly to the Friends of Camp Helen State Park to benefit the park’s resource management projects and interpretive programs.

The movie “Open Season” will be the last movie shown in the 2016 series. This movie features Boog, a domesticated grizzly bear with no survival skills, who meets Elliot, a scrawny, fast talking mule deer with only one antler. When Elliot convinces Boog to leave his comfortable home in a park ranger’s garage to test the great outdoors, Boog’s life spirals out of control. The two find themselves in the forest with open season only three days away. To acclimate in a hurry, they must join forces to unite the woodland creatures and take back the forest. (Rated PG). The interpretive program topic, presented by Gulf World, will be about King Snakes and Wild Animals in an urban setting.

 More information is available by calling (850) 233-5059 or by emailing [email protected]

Camp Helen State Park is located at 23937 Panama City Beach Parkway (Highway 98), Panama City Beach, just west of the Lake Powell Bridge.

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