Salinas Park is about to grow.



Salinas Park is about to grow.

The park, located on State 30E adjacent to the South Gulf County Volunteer Fire Department station, will soon expand to include another seven acres bayside and pickleball courts on the gulf side.

Yes, pickleball in Gulf County is about to have regulation courts built solely for the growing sport.

Warren Yeager, executive director of the county Economic Development Coalition, told a meeting of the Coastal Community Association last weekend that the park project stems from two dovetailing initiatives.

One, by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and county officials to identify additional public access points to the waters of the county.

The second, the Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) effort stemming from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill to provide funding for restoration of environmentally sensitive habitat.

The result, as it pertains to Salinas Park, is a NRDA grant that, combined with the FDEP’s purchase of seven acres bayside that surrounds the existing park footprint from the Patronis family out of Bay County, facilitates park expansion.

Yeager said the FDEP and NRDA dollars were purchasing the land, building a park and providing the county dollars for park maintenance over a 10-year period.

The new park expansion bayside, he added, would include bicycle stations, hiking trails and an elevated walkway.

Gulf-side construction would include the building of not one, but two pickleball courts.

Leave No Trace

The CCA meeting also featured a lively discussion about Leave No Trace, an ordinance that is in its second full season of implementation.

The ordinance, and whether or not the county is properly enforcing it, has been the subject of much debate among South Gulf property owners.

The tenor reached such levels recently that CCA president Dr. Pat Hardman implored members in an email to tone it down and cease any threatening of county or Tourist Development Council employees.

“We’re probably 80 to 90 percent better than where we were,” Hardman said during last Saturday’s meeting.

She said some confusion was stemming from definitions of what removing property was, which in this county is defined as moving articles at least to the “toe of the dune.”

That, however, is in the case of property owners; not visitors.

And, Hardman emphasized, the only people authorized to tag or remove property are county staff, charged by administrator Don Butler.

“What I’m seeing is a lot good and a lot of bad,” Butler said. “We’ve made progress, we are moving forward.

“There are hot spots, there always will be. It’s never going to be perfect.”

With limited staff and resources, Butler added, enforcing an ordinance that pertains to 26 miles of beach presents challenges.

There was also blowback to a county policy within the ordinance that allows folks having a special event to purchase a $100 tag that exempts them from the ordinance for up to one week.

“Why are they allowed to pay the county money to not follow the ordinance?” one resident said. “If it’s wrong, it’s wrong.”

Others, however, countered that the ordinance was having an impact and said folks should dial back the complaints to county staff or commissioners.

“The majority of the county could care less,” said County Commissioner Phil McCroan, who represents the district. “Leave No Trace is working. Let it move ahead.”