If you build it visitors will still go to the beach

At the Board of County Commissioners meeting Sept. 14, a slide presentation of photos was used to show the disrepair of Navarre Park. There were photos of the park pier still damaged from past hurricanes with a “Do not enter” sign, an opened electrical box that needed to be closed, a piece of fencing laying in the park grounds that needed to be picked up, playground equipment repaired with duct tape, unkempt interior wall to the children’s park, standing water around the splash pad area and other areas in need of attention. The question we are wondering is why hasn’t the county fixed these things before now? If we have a county park in disrepair – and supposedly district four has $700,000 in reserve recreation funds – then it is the fault of the county that it is in this condition. Why would we put more money into it when it isn’t taken care of now?

The other part we think is a stretch is using $1.5 million in Tourist Development reserve funds to complete a portion of this work. There are strict guidelines of how TDC money can be used and it boils down to bringing tourists to the area. We have yet to meet a tourist who came to see our park and we don’t think that will change. Tourists come here for the beach. There may be a day when they go shopping or are out at dinner and they happen by the park and decide to stop and check it out. But really, a park doesn’t bring tourists when there is a beach. The conversation would go something like this –

“Where are you going on vacation this year?”

“Navarre in the Florida panhandle.”

“Oh, is that where that awesome park is?”

Probably not how that conversation will go now or in the future. Meanwhile, we need better ballfields and that does entice an entire niche of tourism. How about a park like they have in Panama City where they can host ballgames and swim meets at the same time? Let’s cultivate what we have for tourism not throw the money we have at a “world class” park. When people use those terms we imagine a Disney-like park.

What else could we get for $6 million? Or even $3 million – we certainly agree that the park needs improving for our own county residents and children. We just disagree with $6 million. We think $3 million would make a significant dent in the flooding problems in Holley by the Sea. $3 million would go a long way in public works that are so desperately needed. Or how about a new community center – wait, those funds are spoken for in the funding for the park renovation.

Last but not least, did the Tourist Development Council approve giving $1.5 million of their reserve funds to use for park funding? While a TDC is required by the state of Florida, ours serves only as a token council to meet the state statutes. Otherwise we would have reported on the discussion of using those funds and the approval they gave by vote. One of the most important roles assigned to the TDC by the state is financial oversight. They make sure the funds are being spent properly and appropriately. We have seen the necessity of this responsibility in surrounding counties – and ours just gets ignored.

It’s a lot to think about – but we have to. We have to make prudent and efficient use of the money we have to make it go the farthest. We are for the needed renovations to the children’s park. We are not for a $6 million spend.

Comments or concerns can be emailed to the Board of County Commissioners at [email protected]

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