Crystal Beach expansion in Destin

To: Daily Rundown Readers


Bit-Wizards Be the Magic Foundation Partners With Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge 

As part of its 2022 philanthropic initiatives, the Be the Magic Foundation Board of Directors selected the Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge as one of twelve nonprofit partners for the year.

  • The Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge’s mission is education, conservation, and rehabilitation for the welfare of Florida’s natural fauna.  

As part of the new partnership, Executive Director Crystie Baker and her four-legged assistant, Landlord the Gopher tortoise, paid a visit to the staff at Bit-Wizards and spoke to the team about ECWR’s mission and their areas of greatest need. They received a $1,500 donation to offset the cost of food and formula needed for orphaned, ill, or injured newborn wildlife during their visit.  

Landlord and Crystie’s visit was so inspiring to the Bit-Wizards team that on Saturday, April 9th, 20 members of the Bit-Wizards staff volunteered for a Community Works Day.

  • The group of Wizards assisted with the completion of a squirrel habitat and clearing underbrush in an area designated for a new classroom totaling 140 hours of service. 

“The generosity of Bit Wizards in their monetary donation to assist with the cost of caring for the increased number of orphaned, injured or ill babies we care for each season as well as their physical volunteering at our campus is greatly appreciated by ECWR,” said ECWR Board of Director’s President, Natalie Dyson. “They have helped to lay the foundation for our outdoor classroom which will benefit children of all ages from Escambia, Santa Rosa and Okaloosa counties.” 

The Be the Magic Foundation board selects nonprofit organizations to partner with each year whose missions support four main areas: animal welfare, community development, people with special needs, and youth development.

  • The Foundation accepts partnership requests on an ongoing basis.
  • Interested nonprofit organizations can visit to learn more. 

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Lionfish Restaurant Week begins May 8th

📸 Alex Fogg

Lionfish Restaurant Week is an initiative that Visit Destin-Fort Walton Beach started in 2019 when they brought the Emerald Coast Open to the area.

Restaurant guests can sample lionfish at one of the featured restaurants during the Emerald Coast Open Lionfish Restaurant Week!

  • Local chefs will be highlighting lionfish in unique dishes to help bring awareness to the lionfish invasion in the Gulf of Mexico.

Lionfish are highly invasive and can reduce fish populations and reefs by more than 90%. The Northwest Florida area has been identified as having the highest concentration of invasive lionfish in the world, according to the Emerald Coast Open.

“We partner with different restaurants in the Destin-Fort Walton beach area and we provide them with lionfish filets,” said Alex Fogg, Okaloosa Coastal Resource Manager. “We allow them to prepare lionfish in a bunch of different ways and each restaurant is a little bit different, so it’s a nice variety.”

The Lionfish Restaurant Week runs from May 8th to May 14th at various locations:

  • May 8 – Dewey Destin’s
  • May 9 – Crab Trap Destin
  • May 10 – Harbor Docks
  • May 11 – La Paz
  • May 12 – Brotulas
  • May 14 – AJ’s Seafood & Oyster bar

👉 It’s important to know that while lionfish are venomous, they are NOT poisonous…so you can eat them! (And they are delicious!)

“Restaurant week would not be possible without the Emerald Coast Open, the Pre-Tournament, and all of the divers that are going out and harvesting lionfish to donate them to the event,” added Fogg.

So hit up one of the restaurants this upcoming week and make sure you order Lionfish!


‘Concerts at the Landing’ in FWB kicks off this Friday

Starting Friday, May 6th, “Concerts at the Landing” officially kicks off its Spring series in Downtown Fort Walton Beach. The concerts will happen each Friday for 5 weeks, with a Fall series later in the year.

  • This Friday begins with Jesse & The Jets.
  • Concerts are from 6:00-8:00pm at The Landing.

“Come on down with your family and friends and even drive your golf cart,” said City Manager Michael Beedie. “Bring your lawn chairs and blankets and enjoy the Landing Park with some great weather. Then, visit the downtown merchants when you’re done.”

The concert series will include a 4th of July celebration, and then starts up again right after Labor Day weekend for another five weeks in September.

“We’re hoping that in September we can have a couple of fireworks shows to end those nights as well,” added Beedie.

The popular concert series started 4-5 years ago and has been very successful for the city, averaging anywhere from 1,000-1,500 people every week in May.

After listening to feedback from residents, the city is planning on having at least one food vendor at the Landing.

“We’re getting food trucks down here each week,” said Beedie. “So there will be some food and drinks available, but you can also visit all the downtown merchants as well.”


Shore at Crystal Beach design project approved with much more parking

Rendering of what the view could look like at Shore at Crystal Beach, Destin, once complete.

On Tuesday morning, the Okaloosa Board of County Commissioners approved the Park Design Layout submitted for the Shore at Crystal Beach Park Expansion project.

  • This is a joint project between the county and the City of Destin to acquire additional beachfront property and develop/expand park facilities in the City of Destin. 

The Shore at Crystal Beach Park Expansion is the first project for this partnership. The existing single parcel access park, with limited parking, is to be expanded to include three additional parcels and provide nearly 60 combined standard vehicle, handicap accessible, and low speed vehicle parking spaces.

Following multiple meetings between the City and County staffs, along with the design consultant (Baskerville Donovan, Inc.), the 30% design submittal has been developed. 

The next step will be to finalize the design drawings with the potential to begin construction during the slower tourism time.


Destin moves forward with final piece of Shore at Crystal Beach expansion through eminent domain

In late-2020, Okaloosa County and the City of Destin entered into an interlocal agreement to purchase three parcels adjacent to the Shore at Crystal Beach access in order to provide 251 feet of linear beach.

  • At this time, the city has purchased two of those parcels. The structures have been removed and are being used by the public. 
  • Since then, negotiations for the final parcel have stalled.
  • $10.6 million was allocated for purchase of all three properties.

According to city documents, there was originally a voluntary purchase agreement on the parcel located at 2968 Scenic Highway 98, but the owner backed out of the agreement. The property is currently being used as a vacation rental.

Because of the location of this final parcel, the city of Destin has determined that it does have a public purpose and will be pursuing acquisition via eminent domain.

“The process that we’ve agreed to with the county is to essentially file an eminent domain case against the property,” said Steven Bauman, city attorney. “This is the middle parcel between the two parcels that have closed.”

Bauman says that before the city could file the action for eminent domain, there are some steps that have to be taken. The city council has already passed a motion of necessity, but the county will still have to get an updated appraisal on the property. The other major step is for the city to draft and file the complaint. 

The city will end up in a trial where the court will make a decision on which appraisal to go with: the city’s or the property owner’s appraisal.

At this point, it’s not a matter of whether the city will acquire the parcel or not, but rather what will the final price be paid for the 3rd parcel.

The process could begin in just a matter of weeks. 

NOTE: Even though the county is in partnership with the city of Destin on the Shore at Crystal Beach project, it is not part of the lawsuit.

OK, that’s all I have for you this morning! I hope you have a great Wednesday!

🗓 ‘May the Fourth be with you,’ on this national Star Wars Day. There is also a cool Star Wars event happening at The Boardwalk tonight!

p.s. What did you think of this morning’s newsletter? Hit the reply button and let me know!

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