'Preserving our rare treasure'

By Jody Conrad | Special to the Press Gazette

What do Bagdad, Apalachicola, Crystal River, and St. Marks, among others, have in common? They are all unspoiled coastal communities that work hard to maintain the integrity of their small town atmospheres and preserve them for future generations.

Waterfronts Florida is a state-wide program whose goal is to assist coastal waterfront communities in charting their own futures by offering technical assistance, training, and grants.

Two people enjoy a beautiful day at the fishing pier at Mill Site Park.

The Bagdad Waterfronts Florida Partnership was formed in the 1980s by local residents who wanted to ensure that Bagdad did not go the way of other overly-developed coastal areas.

Coordinator Doug Lasater said their group formed “to preserve the public’s access to the waterfront, shape economic development, and mitigate environmental hazards to our waterways.”

“We are motivated citizens in this community who work closely with Santa Rosa officials,” Lasater says. “This organization allows us to accomplish projects that people in this area want to see done.”

Bagdad Mill Site Park is a popular destination for locals and visitors.

Bagdad Waterfront’s crowning achievement is their Mill Site Park. The 22 acre facility boasts paved walking trails, a kayak launch, restrooms, and placards that explain the historical and environmental features of the site. Plans are in the works for a 2022 completion of a picnic pavilion and boat launch, and a tree garden to memorialize our local fallen heroes.

Lasater said St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, pooch parades, music festivals, antique and art fairs, and front porch art strolls are public events that Waterfronts has organized to raise awareness. He added “Our goal is to foster a sense of community and get folks interested in preserving our rare treasure of a town.”

Waterfronts also completed a detailed economic development study and a Transportation Master Plan to guide the future of Bagdad.

“It requires methodical, long-term planning to preserve our coastal communities,” Lasater said.

This is the main entrance to the Bagdad Mill Site Park.

“One of the things we are up against, is that most of us in the organization have been doing this for a long time, and we are ready to hand over the reins," he added. "Our rivers and bays have no spokesperson, and if we don’t protect our waterways they will soon be lost to development and/or environmental degradation.”

Anyone interested in being a part of preserving Bagdad's local rare treasure can contact Lasater at lasatde@gmail.com. To learn more about Bagdad in general, check out their website bagdadliving.com.