The Coastal Community Association of Gulf County, made up of homeowners on the Cape and surrounding areas, held its annual meeting last week to receive and discuss reports from the Tourist Development Council, Port Authority, Schools and many other area organizations.
Hot topics included the removal of an egress at State 30A and the Cape San Blas Lighthouse.
County Commissioner Warren Yeager spoke about the Cape San Blas Lighthouse and the fact that the county has offered to take the deed from the city of Port St. Joe, which is looking at a $1 million relocation project.
Yeager said that he felt “confident” that the deed would be turned over to the county and that the city should consider putting the money raised toward fixing water throughout the city instead of using it to move the lighthouse into Port St. Joe.
With heavy road work happening on State 30A throughout the remainder of 2014, Yeager said that relocation wouldn’t even be able to begin until 2015.
Yeager said he supported the cause to move the lighthouse to Salinas Park.
Yeager also told his constituents that he didn’t agree with the mandatory changes made to the 30A exit and that the removal of the egress that heads toward the Franklin County line made the intersection more dangerous.
“They’ve created a little bit of a situation over there,” said Yeager. “In 40 years, we’ve never had an accident.”
Yeager said that the new intersection is narrow and may cause an issue for fire and emergency vehicles. Several residents mentioned having issues towing boats through the sharp angle.
Yeager said that he and State Rep. Halsey Beshears were working to add it back in, but they didn’t feel like their voices were being heard. CCA officers have also met with the FDOT about the proposed changes.
Yeager added that he hoped it didn’t take an accident for the government to take notice.
Port St. Joe Port Authority chair Leonard Costin said that he planned to have the Port of Port St. Joe operational by 2015 and that he’d be filing for all necessary permits by March 1.
Two wood pellet plants have already agreed to utilize the port and placed an emphasis on eco-friendliness, ensuring that ships wouldn’t be dumping fuel into the bay.
“We’re moving forward at a fast lightning pace,” said Costin. “This is phenomenal.”
Costin said that the port would create 800 new jobs and replace the jobs lost when the paper plant closed.
Jennifer Jenkins, executive director of the TDC, said that area tourism was already up 5 percent so far in 2014 and that 2013 had been “a very strong year.”
Jenkins also reported on her recent visit to New York City where she met with 27 journalists to tell them more about Gulf County and what it has to offer, using buzz words like “pet-friendly,” “bay,” “tupelo” and “outdoors.”
“Journalists have no idea who we are,” said Jenkins. “We’re a clean slate.”
She said that a group of writers would be visiting the area in April and then again in September, hoping that a positive visit would result in positive press.
Jenkins said that she also received a commitment from a cruise ship company interested in offering excursions in the area.
Jenkins will roll out a new visitor’s guide in March with a new website to follow.
She also announced her beach cleaning initiative that will put paid workers on the beach each week, Memorial Day through Labor Day, and a beach ambassador program that will supplement the Sheriff’s Office patrols and offer helpful tips to visitors who may not be following the county beach ordinances.
Those ordinances will also be listed on new signs, soon to be placed on the Cape and Indian Pass and can be purchased by homeowners to help educate Gulf County tourists.
U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland and State Sen. Bill Montford were scheduled to be in attendance, but canceled allowing for Beshears to kick off the meeting.
Beshears commiserated with the audience on the recent flood insurance premium jumps of 28-32 percent that some residents faced. He also addressed recent remapping of flood zones, which attributed to the hike, but didn’t notify those affected.
Beshears said that Southerland was aware of the problems.
“Steve knows it’s wrong,” said Beshears. “He’s working on it.”