Purchase adds nearly 7 acres to park, preserves another 8 acres
The purchase of land which will bring the expansion of Salinas Park in South Gulf County was formally closed last week.
The announcement came from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and The Trust for Public Land, a California-based non-profit.
The land will be part of the DEP’s Florida Coastal Access program, the $3.2 million project funded through National Damage Resource Assessment (NRDA) dollars.
The so-called Phase V.2 project expends funds remaining from dollars BP put up pre-settlement in Florida, representing fines from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
The purchase of the 6.6 acres abutting the current bayside portion of the park will also help conserve another eight acres of uplands and saltmarsh.
The land was purchased from a Patronis Family Trust.
“We are thrilled to be part of conserving this pristine tract of land for the public benefit,” said Johnny T. Patronis. “Our family has lived in this area for generations and we’re glad this property will be enjoyed by generations to come.”
As unveiled late last year, the preliminary plan for the land, 1,000 feet of which fronts St. Joseph Bay, includes construction of a 1,200-foot boardwalk, 10-feet wide, ADA compliant and elevated to 15-feet above grade, snaking through the property.
A 15-foot high viewing platform, flanked by a pair of 12-foot high platforms, would be constructed on the boardwalk, providing what one DEP manager said would be “spectacular views of the bay.”
Three “trailheads” would provide direct access to the boardwalk from the existing Loggerhead Run Bike Trail along State 30E with amenities such as water and misting stations, bike racks and a bike repair area.
The bayside playground would be upgraded and a nature path connecting bay- and gulf-side sections of the park.
Education kiosks will provide information on natural and cultural resources on the property.
“This additional property has been fallow for decades and offers a beautiful mix of mature palms, magnolias and oaks within which the elevated boardwalk will provide unparalleled views of both the Bay and Gulf,” said Doug Hattaway, senior project manager for The Trust for Public Land.
“We’re grateful for the vision and partnership of DEP and Gulf County leaders and citizen advocates, without whom this inspirational community park could not be created.”
As a final amenity, based on public feedback would be construction within the gulf-side part of Salinas, of two pickleball courts.
The preliminary plan includes a pavilion with benches linking the two courts, which are less than half of the size of a regulation tennis court.
The expansion and construction of the park and amenities is acquired via The Trust for Public Land, an organization which works as a liaison between private and public interests to purchase and preserve sensitive or valuable lands.
The non-profit, having facilitated the purchase, will design, permit and construct the project under the guidance of a committee of public federal and state stakeholders, such as the DEP.
Once completed the park addition will be deeded over to the county, which will also receive 10 years of funding for maintenance and upkeep.
The Phase V Early Restoration NRDA funding is the final $40 million from the original $163 million BP downpayment for early restoration.
The project was one of several whittled from an original pool of 30 park proposals spanning the eight-county area most impacted by the Deepwater Horizon spill.
Other park projects are in various stages of design and construction in Franklin, Bay and Escambia counties.
“Gulf County has been concerned about providing public access to our bays and beaches…,” said County Commissioner Phil McCroan, whose district includes Salinas Park. “This strategic acquisition will guarantee Gulf County residents and visitors alike the opportunity to enjoy some of the best Gulf County has to offer.”