Folks were playing a lively game of pickleball under soaring blue sky only wisps for clouds.
Others were enjoying excursions across the elevated boardwalk that is such a “showcase” for the county the proper name is being solicited from the public.
More than 60 people (though math was never my forte) turned out last week for a somewhat anticlimactic event; a ribbon cutting to officially open the new addition at Salinas Park.
“We’ve been waiting a long time to get to this point of this project,” said Warren Yeager, county assistant administrator.
“There was a lot of work, a lot agencies involved.”
Representatives of those agencies, actually the key players who brought the addition to fruition, were on hand for the ribbon cutting.
Phil Coram with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection noted the timing of the ribbon cutting and its connection to the funding of the $3.2 million addition.
“The turning of this project over to the county is unique because it is almost 10 years since Deepwater Horizon,” Coram said, alluding to the infamous oil spill.
“Now we are seeking good coming out of this and Salinas Park is a perfect example.”
The park addition, spanning just over seven acres, was funded, to the tune of $3.2 million, through the Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) second phase of funding for projects to increase coastal access.
Fine monies from the oil spill funded the NRDA projects.
“There was nothing here before but this is not only great for the community but for this area as a whole,” said County Commissioner Ward McDaniel.
The seven-plus acres were purchased by the Trust for Public Land, which is essentially a nationwide land trust.
“We believe that maintaining the connection between the land and the people … has sustainability,” said Doug Hattaway from the Trust for Public Land.
In coordination with the FDEP, the Trust for Public Land designed and oversaw the project, with public input which directly led to the addition of pickleball courts, a playground and volleyball court.
“Warren insisted on the pickleball courts and (due to public input) we also wanted for the kids,” Coram said.
Coram noted that the site for the project could not be more apt, with the Gulf of Mexico within site and overlooks of St. Joseph Bay.
“This has been a smooth project,” said Phil Sears, an FDEP project manager.
Sears noted that the planks for the 1,600-foot-long elevated boardwalk were carefully laid out and built as the boardwalk progressed to fit with the land and reduce the number of trees that had to be taken, though Hurricane Michael had already taken his share.
The boardwalk is comprised of recycled material, he said and he added that the new playground is handicapped accessible.
“It’s a multi-use park and it is an interactive park,” Sears said.
One visitor on hand who makes an annual trek to spend winters on Cape San Blas may have summed it all up best.
“You have to see it yourself,” he said. “No pictures can do it justice.”
At each entrance to the boardwalk is a sign with a box for submitting suggestions to the Gulf County Tourist Development Council which is sponsoring a “Name the Boardwalk” contest.
Suggestions may also be submitted by visiting visitgulf.com