With the recent purchase of close to 6.6 acres on the northwest end of the Clyde B. Wells (Hwy. 331) bridge corridor, Walton County is getting closer to creating a new park on the Choctawhatchee Bay.
Known as bayfield or “bay fill” to some locals, the first parcel purchased by the County is 2.14 acres on the water. The additional parcels are adjacent to the north and are collectively 4.436 acres. The second purchase will be announced at the Walton County Board of County Commissioners (BCC) next meeting on Aug. 8. The park does not yet have an official name.
Funding for the purchase comes from the $6 million in excess bridge tax funds collected to
fund the new bay bridge. In June of 2016, the BCC held two public forums to collect input on how to allocate the funds which must be used for projects along the Hwy. 331 bridge corridor. The public response was overwhelmingly in favor of acquiring the land on the northwest side of the bridge for a park.
The waterfront has been a popular recreation area for many years despite it being private property. The land was also once home to the Bay Grove Motel, which boasted rental cottages, a restaurant, and a marina.
“We had recently purchased the sandy beach property located south and along the bay. The remaining parcels located to the north will close within the next few weeks. Upon execution of the closing docs, we will begin the process of design of the park. We hope to have the boat and slip area reworked and open for boat launching. We also want to add bathroom facilities, picnic areas etc. The exact design will be decided by the board in upcoming future,” said Bill Chapman, Walton County Commissioner, District 1.
“It took us months to get this finalized, but once the closing happens, we will begin the design and permitting required to move forward with creating something for our citizens, that will provide a recreational opportunity for those that may prefer to stay on this side of the bay,” Chapman continued.