‘Heart of Navarre’ to get face-lift

Navarre Beach visitors trying to access Gulf Boulevard from Navarre Bridge will have a dedicated right-turn lane by November 2017 County Commissioner Rob Williamson said Tuesday, Sept. 27 during his Heart of Navarre Tourism Corridor presentation at the Navarre Visitor Information Center.

Construction of the turn lane would begin in February or March if the Board of County Commissioners votes to approve seeking a contractor at their Nov. 1 meeting.

Though previous discussions had leaned toward a roundabout being placed at the intersection, Williamson said that is not as cost effective as the turn lane.

“I love the idea of a roundabout,” he said. “Aesthetically I think it would be a pretty neat look…I think it would be a great thing, but bottom line we are looking at $1 million because you have to purchase right of way and do the roundabout. I think the preliminary projections are around $250,000 to $300,000 to do a dedicated right-turn lane.”

The $1 million figure Williamson is referring to is the estimate provided by Volkert Engineering back in 2013.

The turn lane would not require the county to make any right of way purchases whereas a roundabout would need space according to the presentation.

“We could still do a roundabout later, but for right now, let’s solve the problem that we have in front of us which is trying to help with that back up,” he said. “It’s not going to get any better. We are a little popular.”

The turn lane was one of five project areas Williamson presented to a packed conference room. The Heart of Navarre Tourism Corridor is the area between Ortega and Andorra streets on the mainland and the entirety of Navarre Beach. It is an area designated for special attention due to its importance to tourism for Santa Rosa County allowing bed-tax funds to be used for projects in the area.

Bed taxes can only be used for things that promote tourism in the county.

Williamson said the planned improvements for the area revolve around five projects:

  • Adding a dedicated right-turn lane onto Gulf Boulevard
  • Renovations of Navarre Park
  • Renovations to the Santa Rosa Island entrances
  • Improvements to the Navarre Beach Public Restrooms
  • Resurfacing and improvements to the Navarre Beach multiuse path

Park Parking

An update to Navarre Park’s facilities is fast approaching as the county is paying Genesis Planning $57,000 to create a master site plan for park improvements by March 2017 with construction beginning as early as November 2017.

The county has been awarded a $50,000 Land and Water Conservation Fund grant for the project.

Changes to the park that were discussed included replacing the play equipment, updates to the Panhandle Butterfly House and reworking the parking lot.

“We have two- to five-year-old children’s playground equipment that we had to remove because it’s just no longer safe,” he said. “Being this close to the salt water things just wear out.”

Williamson said closing one or two of the entry points for the parking lot would also need to be part of the site plan.

“I don’t need to tell you the number of accidents that we have here out in front,” Williamson said. “We have three openings here and three median openings. We are going to close some of those median openings. Try to make it a little bit safer…we will take the recommendation from the consultant, but we may go from three entrances down to one.”

One citizen asked about the potential construction of an amphitheater at the park. Williamson said that was not in the plans, but he said he felt there was a need for a new venue for Thursday in the Park because of the success the event has had.

“To their credit the chamber has done everything that has been asked of them in bringing in additional law enforcement officers to try and make it as safe as possible, but like I said we are a product of our own success,” he said. “At this point we are trying to look at alternate venues. Some would be on the island. Some are here on the mainland.”

Beach Betterment

Leaving the mainland, the discussion turned toward the reduction of signage on the island.

Examples of signs that could be removed include Adopt a Spot, No Motor Vehicle, Share the Road, and No Sexual Offenders May Enter Park.

The signs at the entrances to the county boat launch, Navarre Marine Park, Navarre Beach public parking and pier parking would also be made uniform to match the blue and white Navarre Beach sign at the foot of the bridge. Pedestrian crossings would be updated with lighting and safety features.

The 25-year-old Navarre Beach public restrooms were also discussed. The restrooms are currently out of compliance with the elevation code and the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.

“I didn’t even know how bad that situation was there,” Williamson said.

For the multiuse path that runs along Gulf Boulevard, Williamson said the county would resurface the walkway, add measurements of lengths for runners and provide water fountains for humans and dogs.

Money matters

The cost of each of the projects is still up in the air, however.  For the Navarre Park renovations, funds would come from the county recreation fund and the grant monies.

Williamson pointed to the county’s nearly $30 million in reserve and additional $2.5 million in bed-tax reserves as potential pots for the projects; however, these accounts tend to fluctuate and the bed-tax funds are restricted to tourism-promotion projects potentially excluding them from some of the tourism-corridor projects.

Timelines as well as funding options are the next steps for the beach-improvement projects on the list.

Funding and final approval for each of the projects will have to go before the Board of County Commissioners.

When asked to for an update on the missing welcome sign and additional information on the projects presented Williamson refused to comment.

“I have not answered a request from the Navarre Press in over a year,” he said. “I will never reply to the Navarre Press as long as I am a county commissioner.”

As seen in the Oct. 6 issue of Navarre Press. Click here to subscribe for as little as $38 per year.

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