On Thursday, September 8, 2022, the Okaloosa County Board of County Commissioners held the grand opening of the Okaloosa Island Boat Basin and ADA accessible kayak launch.
- The Okaloosa Island Boat Basin is located at Soundside Access Two off of Santa Rosa Boulevard, between Bluefish Drive and Caviar Drive.
“About five years ago, I learned that we had this amenity that I didn’t even know existed,” said Commissioner Carolyn Ketchel during Thursday morning’s ceremony. “It was run by the Okaloosa Island Leaseholders Association. I came down to see it and realized it was a county property and that it had fallen into total disrepair.”
Ketchel explained that she and Public Works Director Jason Autrey walked the property and agreed that something needed to be done to restore it.
“What you’re seeing today is a product of tourist development money and $150,000 from a Boating Improvement Grant administered by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission,” she said.
The newly renovated two-acre Boat Basin on Okaloosa Island features a boardwalk that can accommodate up to eight 25-foot boats and is the only ADA accessible kayak launch in Okaloosa County. It also includes:
- New landscaping and sidewalks.
- 19 parking spaces.
- Kayak/paddleboard rack.
- Fishing pier/docks.
- Living shoreline installed.
“This is just such a great day for us,” said Jennifer Adams, Tourism Director for Okaloosa County. “We promote Destin-Fort Walton Beach as a premier beach destination, and now with this boat basin, we’re offering another access and adventure to the water.”
Adams explained that when visitors come and stay on Okaloosa Island, they typically have to get into their car in order to get off the island to go do something. Now, they can walk right across the street and have access to the waterways.
“We all know that tourism is a main economic driver for us here in Okaloosa County,” she added. “Last year, we had a record year. Our tourist development tax revenues grew by 74%. That kept people employed, and it kept our shops and businesses open.”
- Additionally, the TDD increased visitor spending by 32%, which put an additional $730 million back into the local economy.
“There’s a renewed vision and hope within Okaloosa County, from a tourism perspective, that with the expanded bed-tax opportunities, things like this are going to fall in our lap that are gifts,” said Chairman Mel Ponder. “For us as a community, locals and tourists alike, we get the opportunity to take advantage of this because people came together, and in the process, bore the fruit that we get to see today as citizens in our community.”