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.
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…”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.