Tuesday, October 23, 2012


Great job Okaloosa County Commission for their foresight in bringing more excitement and things to do in the Fort Walton Beach area.   

Okaloosa to mark newest park on island
315-4432 | @AngelMnwfdn amccurdy@nwfdailynews.com 
OKALOOSA ISLAND — A groundbreaking has been set for the newest park on Okaloosa Island that will house 14 acres of wildlife habitat as well as a new adventure land, fish hatchery and home for the Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge.  What to do with the old Island Golf Center property had been debated for years. The topic was discussed by several Okaloosa County Commissions, and everything from an amphitheater to a dog park was considered.  Now, the talk is over and the planning has begun.    “We’ve talked about what to do with the property since (Hurricane) Ivan,” said Kathy Newby, the county’s public information officer. “We floundered for a long time. Now, something was finally decided at a workshop last year.”  A groundbreaking is set for 10 a.m. Nov. 9 to celebrate Veterans Park, which was named last month. The 35 acres will house Wild Willy’s Adventure Island, the wildlife refuge’s veterinary clinic and zoological school, and the Gulf Coast Marine Science Center’s fish hatchery. “Pretty much, we’re in the infant stage of what we’re going to do,” said James Puckett, operations manager for the county‘s parks and recreation department. “Some of the ideas we’ve discussed were walking trails, a natural area, maybe some picnic tables. We’re trying not to impact vegetation.”Puckett said 14 of the 35 acres will be kept natural, but will have walking trails. The other 17 acres will be for Wild Willy’s, which will include a 3,000-square-foot restaurant, yogurt shop and zip line.  The Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge has plans to expand. It hopes to have a veterinary clinic with viewing area, marine mammal stranding center and its zoological school within the next two years. “We’re working on our development order and finalizing architectural plans now, but we should get under way soon,” said Amanda Wilkerson, director of the refuge.  County Commissioner Don Amunds has been a big supporter of keeping the park natural and getting the right people involved with the developed part.  “I think the public will really enjoy it,” Amunds said. “We listened to the public and they were consistent with what they wanted — green space not structures — and that’s what we’re giving them.”

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


BUILD IT AND THEY WILL COME.   Words, which hold true for the panhandle of Florida.  As noted, the Airport in Panama City and  the Northwest Florida Regional Airport in Fort Walton Beach, are experiencing much growth.  Why?  Well it was a, Good thing/Bad Thing.  BP Oil Spill cause significant damages to Gulf.  BP Oil spends millions of dollars in advertising around the country.  This advertising and awareness has cause a significant increase in tourism, which also has led to investment in the real estate market for both vacation rentals and second homes.  The secret is out, and the Emerald Coast is somewhere to spend some time, invest in real estate, and/or make it their home of the future, which many have done already.  I expect with the International pilots of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter School ramping up, we will also have the eyes of the International world on us in a big way, as well.

Airport projecting ‘impressive growth’
 747-5076 | @valeriegarman vgarman@pcnh.com 
PANAMA CITY — Air travel in Northwest Florida has changed since Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport opened in May 2010.  At a public workshop Tuesday at the Bay County Library to discuss the airport’s master planning process, project manager Paul Puckli reminded audience members how Beaches International has changed the face of air travel in the region since its opening. “You’ve got an airport now that has enhanced facilities, improved facilities, state-of-the-art facilities, that provides you an even better link to the air transportation system,” Puckli said. “It’s really promoting air transportation in this area like your other airport just couldn’t do.” The meeting provided an overview of the 16- to 18-month master planning process that, once complete, will outline five-, 10- and 20-year planning horizons for the airport, and give officials a tool to design the airport of the future.  Officials are in the process of forecasting future airport activity, and significant growth is expected. With the airport growing at a rate of 5 percent per year, considerably higher than the national average of 2 percent, Puckli outlined a 20-year activity forecast for the airport that projects passenger activity to double.  “In the next 20 years we’re looking at 950,000 passengers,” Puckli said. “Based on the growth we’ve seen, that’s not way out of line. It’s pretty impressive growth.”  Beaches International has almost tripled the passenger rate of the old airport, from 150,000 to 427,000, and has increased the market share from 9 percent to 23 percent. “Now that we’ve seen the growth, can that terminal building accommodate that growth? No it can’t. Can that parking lot accommodate that growth? No it can’t,” Puckli said. “We’re looking at what we can do to improve it as an air transportation facility and an economic engine for the region.”    Puckli said a major part of the planning process will be to determine the best use for the 4,000 acres of land the airport sits on, the majority of which is undeveloped. He said a crosswind runway most likely will be constructed within the 20-year planning period, but there are no plans for a new runway at this time. After activity forecasts are finalized, an appointed Technical Advisory Committee will determine facility needs and recommend a development program for the airport. A second public workshop will be in February to discuss the committee’s progress and gather further public input, and the airport board should be set to adopt a final plan by mid-2013.  A master plan is needed for airports to be eligible to receive state and federal funding for improvement projects. The process is funded primarily through grants from the Federal Aviation Administration and the Florida Department of Transportation. Puckli encouraged the community to get involved in the process because public input is an essential part of the airport of the future.  “We’re trying to be as open as we can be,” Puckli said. “Truly, this is your airport.”

Thursday, October 4, 2012


This is another indicator of the influence Eglin AFB has in the military to streamline and take advantage of the unique strategic value it has and the efficiencies it can produce with actions, such as this.  I would expect you will see more opportunities like this at Eglin AFB to take control and host other commands from all services at one of the largest facilities in the U. S. military, which is about the size of Rhode Island. 

33rd Fighter Wing takes command of new squadron
337th Air Control Squadron will continue to operate at Tyndall
315-4445 | @LaurenRnwfdn lreinlie@nwfdailynews.com 
EGLIN AFB — The 33rd Fighter Wing took command of a new squadron Wednesday. Commanders now oversee about 300 people at Tyndall Air Force Base near Panama City. The move to take command of the 337th Air Control Squadron (formerly the 325th) is part of the process to reassign Tyndall’s 325th Fighter Wing from education and training to air combat command. The reassignment officially took effect Monday.  Because the 337th Air Control Squadron will remain a training center, it will fall under command of the training wing at Eglin Air Force Base while continuing to operate at Tyndall.  “It makes sense to leave them there and have command and control under another air education and training unit,” said Lt. Col. Randal Efferson, deputy commander of the 33rd Operations Group, which will oversee the new squadron.  Navy Capt. Michael Saunders, who commands the group, attended a brief ceremony at Tyndall on Wednesday. The 337th Air Control Squadron is currently training about 130 students to be air battle managers. They will be tasked with collecting and controlling information for pilots to use during war, said Lt. Col. Gary Smith, commander of the squadron at Tyndall who will remain in his position through the reassignment. The squadron also has about 70 other airmen, 45 officers and eight civilians.  Smith said the squadron’s move to the 33rd Fighter Wing will be positive. “It’s a very amicable change,” he said. “The leadership there at Eglin has already been very supportive in trying to bring us into the organization and to make sure we have everything we need.” He said the squadron will continue to work closely with Tyndall, but is looking forward to building a closer relationship with Eglin.  The change in command will not greatly alter the day-to-day operations right away.    Eventually, as the 33rd Fighter Wing becomes certified as a training school and expands its scope, air battle management students at Tyndall will be able to work closely with student pilots learning to fly F-35 jets at Eglin, Smith said. They will be able to run simultaneous training missions. “Our students will work with their students out in the airspace over the Gulf of Mexico,” he said. “As the F-35s come onboard, we can go ahead and have these relationships made and be ready to train with these guys.” While about 80 miles separates the two bases, it’s only about 10 minutes by military jet. By pilot standards, that makes Eglin and Tyndall practically neighbors, Efferson noted.  “We feel like we’re in the driveway when we’re within 100 miles.”