TDC seeks Topsail Hill Preserve State Park land
By DOTTY NIST
DeFuniak Springs Herald
Discussion of a possible new public beach access across the southeastern portion of Topsail Hill Preserve State Park drew the attention of community members at a meeting of the Walton County Tourist Development Council’s (TDC) Destination Improvement Committee.
The committee met on April 9 at the TDC office.
Brian Kellenberger, newly-hired TDC director of beach operations, explained that the access would primarily serve several nearby neighborhoods and that preliminary meetings had been held with representatives of the state park system regarding the access.
Written information provided to the committee stated that the concept “included creation of a new pedestrian entrance and trailhead near the park’s southeast corner and construction of a boardwalk from that point to the park’s beach.”
It was also stated, “Access to the trailhead would be provided via a county easement across the streets and alleyways of the Beachview Heights subdivision. Specifically, access to the trailhead would likely occur along Tanglewood Drive and Sandstone Street.” It was noted that entrance to the park would be restricted to pedestrians only, who would be required to deposit the park entrance fee in an honor box.
Kellenberger told the group that the state park system representatives had indicated that the system was low on funds for projects of this type and that, in order for the access to be prioritized, an alternate funding source would likely be required. This led to discussion of “the idea of cost sharing” between the park system, the TDC, and some community organizations, Kellenberger reported.
He added that the boardwalk under discussion would be an elevated one.
It was discussed that there is an existing trail at the location of the proposed boardwalk, although there is currently a fence across the trail.
The committee and attendees discussed that rules for use of the boardwalk would be different from those for other public accesses since it would be contained in the state park. The written material indicated that a “no pets policy” for the boardwalk area might be considered in order to prevent negative impacts on “imperiled beach mice and shorebirds” in the area.
A resident of one of the neighborhoods in the vicinity of the potential boardwalk spoke strongly in favor of it being pursued.
Calling the access “very much needed,” he spoke of congestion and parking problems at other public beach accesses along the west end of CR-30A. The resident predicted that congestion would not be a problem at the new proposed access because there would be no parking associated with it.
“The beach is too beautiful not to be shared by everyone,” the resident concluded.
Jim Bagby, TDC executive director, clarified that there would be parking racks for bicycles at the access but not for cars.
Parking needs assessment workshop April 23
Walton County will hold a public workshop on Wednesday, April 23rd at Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort’s LeCiel Room. The workshop will be held from 5:30 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. The recent parking study conducted by AVCON for Walton County will be shared with the public at this meeting. One or more county commissioners may be present at this workshop.