Helicopters terminated at Destin Airport

To: Daily Rundown Readers


Lake Earl in Fort Walton Beach could get a “Slow Speed Minimum Wake” zone

Okaloosa County is planning to establish a ‘Slow Speed Minimum Wake Boating Safety Zone‘ in Lake Earl in Fort Walton Beach.

The entrance to Lake Earl is less than 50ft wide. A memo to the Commissioners states that vessels traveling at high rates of speed pose a significant hazard to property and safety within the water body.

A detailed census of all the county’s Boating Safety Zone waterway markers was conducted in the fall of 2020.

  • The purpose of the census was to determine where the current signs existed and what signs need to be repaired, replaced or formally established.

In spring 2021, the County was contacted by citizens in the Lake Earl community regarding increased vessel traffic and vessels traveling at high speed in Lake Earl.

The concerned citizens noted Lake Earl historically had “Slow Speed Minimum Wake” signs posted prior to the storm season. However, County staff could not find where these signs were permitted or supported by a County ordinance.

  • In order to be replaced, the County has to establish an ordinance along with the application to the FWC.

But before the safety zone can be established, the County will have to advertise a public meeting on the issue. Details on that meeting have not yet been determined.


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Okaloosa donates property to City of Crestview for parking and downtown splash pad

📸 Chance Leavins, City of Crestview

On Tuesday morning, the Okaloosa Board of County Commissioners agreed to donate a piece of property to the City of Crestview that will include public parking and a splash pad for downtown area.

Originally, the County and Crestview entered into an Interlocal Agreement in March of 2020 for the property on North Wilson Street (formerly the Piggly Wiggly site).

The agreement was originally for the construction of a playground with a rubberized surface. Since then, the City of Crestview has received funding to install a “splash pad” play area instead of a traditional playground.

  • Transfer of the property includes the requirement that the parcel remain for use as public parking and park purposes.
  • The City of Crestview will have full ownership of the property, improvements, and all associated utilities.
  • Work still required on site will be performed by the City with no additional cost to the County.

“Don’t tell the City of Crestview, but we’re actually getting the better end of the deal,” joked Commissioner Nathan Boyles. “So they now have to pay to maintain the facility.”

As noted above, part of the clause is that the property will continue to be open for public parking.

  • “That was the underlying reason for acquiring the property to begin with. The county owns the Brackin Street facility across the way. Parking is always tight in downtown Crestview so this was an expansion of public parking that has now been done through a partnership. The splash pad, I think, will be a catalyst at bringing folks into downtown,” said Boyles.

“I’m very excited about the outcome of this project,” said Tim Bolduc, Crestview City Manager. “It is a perfect example of a significant public-private partnership between Okaloosa County, the City of Crestview, and the Crestview Rotary Club. With the help of businesses and citizens, Crestview will have a great amenity in our downtown, which will provide entertainment for families and continue to contribute to the revitalization of our historic downtown area.”


More parking coming to 2 boat ramps in Fort Walton Beach

On Tuesday morning, the Okaloosa Board of County Commissioners agreed to purchase two pieces of property in Fort Walton Beach to add more parking to two boat ramps.

The first property is adjacent to the boat ramp off of Rickey Avenue in Fort Walton Beach.

The County currently owns a long, narrow, water front parcel that was acquired in the 1950’s that allows access to Garnier Bayou.

  • The parcel is twenty (20) feet wide and has a boat ramp that is well utilized.
  • Due to the limited width of the parcel, parking of vehicles or boat trailers blocks access and the area becomes congested.
  • Those using the ramp are also parking along the right-of-way.

The County was made aware of a parcel available for purchase adjacent to the boat ramp. The 0.58 acre available parcel is across Ricky Avenue NE just south of the access.

  • The County will use that parcel for parking for the boat ramp.
  • The purchase will be contingent upon a favorable appraisal for the asking price of $350,000.

The second property is adjacent to the boat ramp on Water Street.

  • The sixty (60) foot right-of-way has minimal space for parking vehicles and boat trailers to utilize the boat ramp.
  • The property being acquired is a 0.16 acre parcel.

The purchase will be contingent upon a favorable appraisal for the asking price of $250,000.

“$250,000 for a vacant lot seems like a significant amount,” said Commissioner Trey Goodwin. “But I do want to point out that this is property has not been available for sale for probably 50 or 60 years. It’s a limited opportunity so I just want to explain to the public why we would be willing to invest that. We just need the space. We could actually use a little bit more, but it is what’s available.”


Construction will begin this month from SR 85 to the 123

Florida Department of Transportation has announced that work will begin this month from State Road 85 in Crestview down to State Road 123.

This is a $25 million safety improvement project in Okaloosa County.

Improvements consist of resurfacing and improving an 11-mile section of S.R. 85 between S.R. 123 and Hospital Drive in Crestview.

  • The project also includes improvements at the S.R. 85 and I-10 interchange and access management upgrades at key turn lanes, side streets, driveways, and median openings.

Additional improvements will include drainage upgrades, new curb and gutter, and traffic signal improvements.

During construction, there will be periodic lane closures, lane shifts, and temporary changes in the traffic pattern. The project is estimated for completion in mid-2023.


Okaloosa does not move forward with Timberview Helicopters at the Destin Airport

Source: Angela Bartlett-Johnson via Facebook

On Tuesday morning, the Okaloosa Board of County Commissioners voted 4-0 to not accept the proposed new operating agreement with Timberview Helicopters at the Destin Executive Airport. (Commissioner Goodwin abstained from voting.)

For the past 60 days, the county has been working with Timberview on a new operating agreement that would be fair not only for residents, but for visitors and Timberview.

  • Airport staff and legal counsel met with Timberview representatives and counsel on June 24th to begin discussions on a new operating agreement.
  • Over the next several weeks, the parties met by video or phone multiple times and exchanged several drafts of the operating agreement.
  • By July 30, 2021, the parties reached agreement on a final draft, which was presented to the public for comment on August 3rd.

According to the County, a central goal was to secure a new Letter of Agreement with the Control Tower at DTS defining tour helicopter routes that avoided direct overflights of residential and resort areas.

  • They also wanted to increase the altitudes of flights to minimize impacts on residents and visitors that would be incorporated into the new operating agreement.
  • The proposed new routes would have required Timberview to fly between 500 feet and 600 feet or higher above ground level for the portion of tour flights beyond the Airport boundary.

It was a full house on Tuesday as the Commission heard from a number of residents, business owners, Aviation board members, and a former Timberview employee. And while the County says that they have reached out to the FAA for help on the matter, no action had been taken from the FAA prior to Tuesday morning’s meeting.

  • Ultimately, the Commissioners said they had to make a decision regarding the possible impact helicopter tours have on the quality of life in Destin, safety issues, tourism, and the mission of the military.
  • That decision was to not accept the new operating agreement.

Due to the Board’s June 15, 2021 vote to terminate the prior Operating Agreement effective August 17, 2021, Timberview’s commercial operations at the Airport have also been terminated.

  • This does not include the heli pad near Highway 98, which was approved by County, FDOT, and FAA in 2012.
  • The County has no authority over Pad Operations.

“There’s going to be some litigation out of this,” said Commissioner Nathan Boyles. “So now we’re going to be spending some tax money in order to defend this decision that we’ve made. I’ll stand by that because I do think at the end of the day, a future that doesn’t have a tour helicopter buzzing the beach every 30 seconds is a better future for Okaloosa County.”


What else we are reading…

  • Hard worker and helpful are just a few of the words family and friends used to describe Capt. Brant Kelly, who died at age 67 on Aug. 12 in his home in Destin. Click here to read more.
  • There’s a new exhibit at the Destin History and Fishing Museum, simply titled Dive Destin. The exhibit centers on the early history of diving in Destin, according to The Destin Log.

Ok, that’s all I have for you this morning. Hope you have a great Wednesday!


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

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