NAVARRE BEACH — Mom’s Beach on the barrier island will not just be a place for she and their children to splash and play in the calmer Santa Rosa Sound water this summer.
Walkways from the parking lots and pavilions to the Sound beach are now open at Navarre Marine Park on the east end of the island. Residents and tourists have BP oil spill funds to thank for the upgrades; the improvements cost $454,687.
Better yet, the three walkways on the Soundside make it easier than ever to wheel wagons full of beach gear or pull a kayak to launch. That’s because the walkways are friendly to people with disabilities.
The only other walkway with a place to launch a kayak in Northwest Florida is on the Perdido River, according to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
Michael Sandler, president of the Navarre Beach Area Chamber of Commerce Foundation, said the upgrade also saves the ecosystem at the beach on the Sound. Dunes, sea oats and bird nesting can come back now that the paths lead visitors to the beach.
“Before, people would make all kinds of paths to the beach,” Sandler said. “We call them rabbit trails. This is a great park improvement.”
Cathy Holmes runs the Navarre Beach Sea Turtle Conservation Center at the Navarre Marine Park. The easy-on-the-knees walkways impress her. She was about one of more than 50 people who attended a ribbon cutting and watched “Kayak” Dave Barker launch. The kayak launch has two hand rails that make it easy to float in the water.
“It’s preserving this park that needs to be preserved,” Holmes said. “We hope it brings more ecotourism.”
Begun in October 2014, the project now allows the county to add more white sand on about an acre to help rebuild the dunes and natural habitat.
“It’s a great addition to the overall beach experience for residents and visitors,” said Santa Rosa County Commissioner Dave Piech, who represents Navarre Beach.
If that isn’t enough, more improvements are coming over the next four weeks. They include a new parking area, a beach access boardwalk with showers, a restroom pavilion, one large and two smaller pavilions with picnic tables and grills, and an observation platform.