By Charles Morgan III
I don’t think many people have ever complained about a city that had too many trees or public parks.
Our experience with parks in Destin, though not extensive, is that they are popular and valuable in many ways.
The Morgan Sports Center, property leased from the Destin Water Users for $1 a year, is remarkable. If you drove by the sports fields this summer, in addition to seeing residents enjoying the park, you would have seen lacrosse tournaments, traveling baseball teams, soccer tournaments, colleges practicing soccer, men’s softball events, and more.
When a lacrosse tournament is held at the park, families from all over the southeast head to Destin. They stay in rental units, they eat in restaurants, they shop in stores, and they charter boats to go fishing. The organizers of the events pay the city of Destin to use the facility.
These are events that are profitable in numerous ways. They are far more valuable to our town than the midget wrestling events and off brand country music shows the TDC has put on in the past.
It is rare to pass by Destin Elementary without seeing kids playing soccer or people working out on the rubberized track.
Many of our parks provide access needed to launch boats, paddleboards, or jet skis. We’ve got small parks for basketball and tennis.
We have a wonderful Destin Aquatic center. It is not only a place for locals to swim laps, for school teams to practice, and for kids to play in a splash pool, it hosts numerous swim meets that bring families from all over to compete. Those families spend money in Destin.
We’ve got an unbelievably popular dog park.
We have parks that are just green spaces, places that provide a quiet place to sit on a bench and enjoy a bit of quiet.
These parks work for us. They are one of the things that we got right. We need more of them.
Modern day Destin was created in such a furious rush that we missed many opportunities. Since 1970, Destin has weathered the effects of 100 different developers. We’ve suffered through a mad dash of development of condos and strip centers, and there’s not much open land left.
Destin wasn’t graced with an abundance of benevolent landowners. Burney Henderson sold a huge parcel of beachfront to the state in 1982. Henderson Park provides our town with 1.3 miles of beachfront that, if not for Mr. Henderson, would be another wall of condominiums. We needed more people like Mr. Henderson.
We’ve spent decades selling ourselves to tourists and developers. We’ve sold ourselves short.
There will be some redevelopment still to come in Destin. But surely we can agree that if Destin is not overdeveloped, it is certainly sufficiently developed.
It’s time to be selfish with what we have left. Let’s utilize grants and tax dollars to acquire property for our residents—and tourists. Let’s plant trees wherever we can.
Let’s become a town known not just as The World’s Luckiest Fishing Village. Let’s become a town known not just as the world’s largest cluster of jet skis and pontoon boats.
Let’s become a town known for being able to offer its residents plenty of places to enjoy. Let’s become a town where people can walk or ride a bike without getting killed. Let’s become a town with a ridiculous number of parks. Let’s become a town with a canopy of trees that is unlike any in the Panhandle.
Let’s become a town that jealously guards the enjoyment of its residents.
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