Over the last few months I have had the pleasure of being in a group on Facebook dedicated to people’s experiences of growing up in Port St. Joe. There have been hundreds of pictures and thousands of comments and memories shared on this site and the common thread of all of them was how great it was to grow up in our small town.
For the vast majority of the people sharing on this site, including myself, it wasn’t until later in life that they realized just what a special place it was and how lucky we were to have had that experience. I am so glad that I was able to come back to St. Joe and raise my son here and to share that with him.
But now I worry that the small town that we all loved growing up is rapidly changing.
The industrial jobs are long gone and the building boom has died, forcing many of the same families that we all grew up with to have to move on to find work. I keep hearing our TDC and town leaders talk about their new vision of St. Joe becoming more upscale in the Destin and Seaside model.
I understand that we must change with the times and that progress is not a bad thing. Then I really look at Destin and Seaside and one thing I don't see are the locals, the families that built those towns. They were run out long ago either by being bought out or having to leave because they could no longer afford to live there. You will also notice that none of the people who work in the shops, hotels, restaurants, and resorts actually live there. They have all been forced into the small towns in the interior in order to find affordable housing because of the low wages paid in the tourism and hospitality industry.
Port St. Joe may very well become the next Destin and become very prosperous and that is not a bad thing but I wonder if it is worth the price we will pay for that prosperity and who will really be the ones prospering from these changes. I don’t believe it will be the majority of us whose families have been here for generations and made this small town the wonderful place that we all have been reminiscing about, and that is a shame. They tell me you can’t stop progress but I wonder if this new vision is more one of change rather than progress.
Cecil Lyons III
Port St. Joe