Visit South Walton and the Walton County Board of County Commissioners are united in their goal of preserving public beach accesses and reducing traffic congestion in South Walton County. The county has used funds from Tourism Development taxes, a 4-percent “bed tax” levied on short term rentals, to purchase beachfront properties for future use as regional beach accesses and to expand parking options in the Grayton Beach area, with the possibility of serving as a trolley hub in the future.
Not only were the properties purchased using bed tax dollars, but they will be maintained through these tax revenues. The bed taxes for May of 2017 are up seven percent over the same time period in 2016, with the year to date total up 11 percent.
Since August 2016, Visit South Walton has purchased seven beachfront parcels for a total of 747 feet of beachfront to be used as three new regional access points, along with a 7.35-acre inland property. The total spent for these properties is $24.1 million. When the newly purchased beachfront properties open as regional beach accesses, the total number of regional beach access points in South Walton will rise from seven to 10. Each regional beach access point includes parking, bathroom facilities, and a lifeguard station. The three new regional beach access points will be located in Miramar Beach, Seagrove Beach, and Dune Allen Beach. By expanding the number of regional beach accesses, less pressure will be placed on any single stretch of beach, and locals and visitors will both have greater ease of access to South Walton’s beautiful beaches. These regional beach accesses are in addition to three beachfront state parks, and 52 neighborhood access points.
Most recently, the Walton County Board of County Commissioners approved the purchase by Visit South Walton of a beachfront parcel for $1,537,500. The property, at 907 Scenic Gulf Drive in Miramar Beach, is directly adjacent to a property purchased by Visit South Walton earlier this year. The additional parcel expands the total frontage of the to-be-constructed new regional beach access to 410 feet. Included with the newly purchased parcel is a structure, allowing Visit South Walton to build a bathhouse facility without limiting the existing Gulf views from Scenic Gulf Drive.
“This property adds beachfront to South Walton’s planned regional beach accesses,” says Visit South Walton Executive Director Jay Tusa. “This is a win-win for Walton County. The addition of regional accesses is great for locals, and safeguards our visitors’ experience as well. Tourism accounts for $3.2 billion in economic impact in Walton County, and that helps fund jobs and projects throughout the entire county. Easy access to the beach is important to both visitors and locals so it makes sense to work to preserve the high-quality beach experience we all enjoy here in South Walton.”
The recent acquisitions and future regional access points include:
Miramar Beach – The Walton County Board of County Commissioners voted to approve the purchase by Visit South Walton of a 2.03-acre beachfront parcel for $4.2 million, including 360-feet of frontage on the Gulf of Mexico on the south side of Scenic Gulf Drive, between Alamo Street and S. Geronimo Street.
Seagrove Beach – Visit South Walton purchased three adjacent pieces of property connecting from 30A to the beachfront, totaling approximately 1.5 acres with 117-feet of beachfront, located across from Café Thirty-A restaurant, between Somerset Bridge Rd. and Sugar Sand Ln. The purchase price was $4.9 million.
Dune Allen Beach – Visit South Walton purchased 1.51 acres of beachfront property in Dune Allen Beach, acquiring 220-feet of beachfront for $7.4 million after being approved by the Walton County Board of County Commissioners. The property is between Hilltop Dr. and Woodward Dr. on Hwy 30A.
Grayton Beach – The Walton County Board of County Commissioners approved the purchase of a 7.35-acre site along CR-283 where previous owners had planned a combination hotel/condo and retail space facility, including 75 hotel rooms and 78 condo units. Purchased by Visit South Walton for $7.6 million, current plans are now to use the property to expand parking and lessen traffic congestion in the Grayton Beach area.
These acquisitions total $24.1 million, include 12.66 acres and 697-feet of beachfront. More importantly, these actions by Visit South Walton and the Walton County Board of County Commissioners will create and preserve public beach access and reduce traffic congestion in South Walton County. Now, that’s progress!