I hope that I am not the only one to see the dangerous idiocy in selecting the "Beacon Hill Park" (actually Veterans Memorial Park) as an "ideal location for disaster housing." What should be considered when selecting a suitable location for “temporary housing” for 50-plus families? I would think things like: elevation, electrical access, public access, traffic flow, easy access and egress from the area, public safety and heavy equipment access (without highway destruction).
Only our esteemed County Commissioners (aided by a past Commissioner Warren Yeager) could think that this location met even most of these criterion? Taking them one at a time, 1. Elevation: Yes, along with 80 percent of the county. 2. Electrical access: yes (aided in part by oil spill funds for the benefit of the county recreational facilities and finally giving long overdue respect to the veterans of Gulf County). 3. Public access: no. Veterans Park is the prime public access point to the Gulf beaches (and the closest access point to the residents of northern Gulf County). Adding 40 families from Gulf County (as well as unspecified numbers from Bay County (Mexico Beach residents) would effectively eliminate public access, and prove to be a dramatic safety hazard for visitors and residents alike. 4. Traffic flow: no. Traffic would be a nightmare for all! The only access to the park is off of the most heavily traveled highway in Gulf County (U.S. 98). The entire neighborhood adjacent to the park (including an assisted living center) must enter and exit through the park access road. There is no other access road! 5. Safety, no! Children and families routinely walk to the beach and park on that only access road. I also should mention that one must cross the access road to get from the parking to the public beach. 6. Heavy equipment access: no. We have real time experience with that by the utility trucks bivouacked there for two months. They provided an invaluable service to the community but left the park a virtual mud field (even though wood pallets and asphalt paving were used). The semis could not make the turn and often the traffic was reduced to one way using a flag person.
It should be evident to all residents (except maybe the commissioners) that this is a dangerous choice and one which is not in the best interest of the residents.
Let’s explore some other alternatives for this needed temporary housing. Less than five miles away there are numerous locations on Highway 386 which meet all the requirements set forth (one is a resource marshaling area owned by Duke Energy). There is a number of existing RV parks along that stretch. This area also has adequate Highway access, as well as heavy equipment access. Another good location would the little used “Industrial Park” where taxpayer funding has already paid for the utility infrastructure. Then there is the vast amount of land as you travel north on State 71 out of Port St. Joe, providing easy access to both Port St. Joe and Wewahitchka. There are many more and much better locations than Beacon Hill /Veterans Park. In the interests of the community you serve, make the right selection - not the easy one.
Port St. Joe