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State wants to give county storm-battered park

Navarre Beach State Park has been closed since Ivan hit last year.

Associated Press
Published October 6, 2005

NAVARRE BEACH - The state has offered to repair and then return a new but storm-battered beachfront park to Santa Rosa County after months of haggling over how it should be salvaged. But some county officials don't want it.

Navarre Beach State Park had been open just a few months last year when it was battered by Hurricane Ivan and then slammed again this year by a pair of tropical storms and Hurricane Dennis.

The storms flattened dunes, eroded the beach and destroyed buildings, bicycle paths, roads and boardwalks at the park in this barrier island community. It has been closed since Ivan struck on Sept. 16, 2004.

Florida Park Service spokesman Matt Mitchell said it would make more sense for the 130 acres donated by Santa Rosa to reopen as a county park.

"It's a popular day use, in-and-out-type recreation area for community activities," Mitchell said. "It's less suited for a state park."

The state spent $10-million developing the park, which has beachfront on the Gulf of Mexico and Santa Rosa Sound, with picnic pavilions, a campground, showers and laundry facilities.

Park Service officials want to restore the park with Federal Emergency Management Agency funds under a cooperative agreement with Santa Rosa, but county commissioners first must sign off on its return.

Commissioner John Broxson said he will push for the state to keep it. He's not sure the county can afford the upkeep.

"They made a commitment and I want them to stay on that commitment," Broxson said. "Do the people of Santa Rosa County want to undergird the expense of operating a park on that barrier island? We need to understand if we can handle that."

County Administrator Hunter Walker also questioned the proposal, noting the park would remain susceptible to hurricanes.

But Navarre Beach businessman Mark Martino, who rents out kayaks, bicycles, surfboards and other beach gear, said the county should jump at the chance to get the park back and use it in ways to attract tourists.

"This is something that would pay," he said. "It wouldn't be a dead duck."

[Last modified October 6, 2005, 01:13:15]

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