State and federal officials last week unveiled a proposal to expand Salinas Park, adding amenities such as an elevated boardwalk, viewing stations and pickle ball courts.

State and federal officials last week unveiled a proposal to expand Salinas Park, adding amenities such as an elevated boardwalk, viewing stations and pickle ball courts.

The Florida Coastal Access $3.1 million project would be 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.

Earlier phases of spending from those early restoration funds brought an overhaul to Veterans Memorial Park at Beacon Hill and the Frank Pate boat ramp in Port St. Joe.

Projects to bring a new boat ramp to Highland View and new pier at WindMark Beach are moving forward, though each has been delayed due to project-specific factors.

If the Salinas Park proposal, one of three initially considered and the one currently recommended by a committee, is finalized it would begin with acquisition of 6.6 acres abutting the current bayside portion of the park.

That acquisition would also help conserve another 8 acres of uplands and saltmarsh.

The preliminary plan for the 6.6 acres calls for construction of a 1,200-foot boardwalk, 10-feet wide, ADA compliant and elevated to 15-feet above grade, snaking through the property.

“That is the largest most interesting element,” said Phil Coram with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. “To get up to 15-feet and be ADA compliant, you need a lot of length. It is a gentle slope up and down and winds through the parcel.

“You will be able to see these beautiful magnolia trees, these old palms and these tall old long-leaf pine trees. The goal is to fit it onto the land without removing trees.”

A viewing platform 15-feet high in center and flanked by a pair of 12-foot high platforms would be constructed along the boardwalk as it winds along the shores of St. Joseph Bay.

“You will have spectacular views of the bay,” Coram said.

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.

And in discussion with local officials, the committee included additional work on the Cape side of Salinas Park: pickle ball courts.

Reportedly one of the fastest-growing sports in the country, and plenty of evidence exists in this little neck of the woods, pickle ball enthusiasts will enjoy the first two official courts in the county.

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 pickle ball courts, interestingly, proved the lone controversial aspect of the plan with resident Dwayne Piergovanni contending the courts should be for combined use with sports such as basketball.

Another resident proposed a kayak launch and public comment was precisely why the committee held a public meeting last week.

Public comment for the plan ends Dec. 8.

Overall, the plan received a warm reception and maybe the most favorable aspect is that the expansion and construction of the park amenities would be paid for and the county will also receive 10 years funding for maintenance and upkeep.

“I love the plan,” said Warren Yeager, executive director of the county Economic Development Coalition, noting the concept had been in the planning stages 18 months.

“They buy it, they develop it and the county gets 10 years of operational funds. That is unique... It is not often local government has the opportunity to acquire a parcel with access to local waters.”

The Phase V funding is the final $40 million from the original $163 million BP downpayment for early restoration under NRDA.

A committee (FLTIG, or the Florida Trustee Implementation Group) comprised of representatives from state, FDEP and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission for example, and federal agencies, including the Department of Interior, USDA and NOAA, oversees the spending of the money.

“We’re here to figure out the best way to spend those dollars on your behalf,” said Ben Rater of the Department of Interior, aiming to “increase public access to the coast and enhance the experience once they are there.”

A key player is the Trust for Public Land, a non-governmental agency which works as a liaison public and private sectors.

Under guidance from the FLTIG, the Trust will design, permit and construct the project at Salinas Park.

That project was one of three whittled to the finals from an original pool of 30 proprosals spanning the eight-county area most impacted by the Deepwater Horizon spill.

The Salinas Park project became the “preferred” option due to several factors: widespread public support, or lack thereof on the other options; geographic distribution among all counties and willingness of the land owner to sell.

The land next to Salinas Park is owned by the Patronis Family Land Trust.

“I love (the plan),” said Dr. Pat Hardman, president of the Coastal Community Association of Gulf County. “Remember the alternative, this was going to be 17 houses.

“Think about the impact of that.”