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
By ANGEL McCURDY
315-4432 | @AngelMnwfdn firstname.lastname@example.org
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.”