To advocate on behalf of the South Walton Community 
for the preservation, protection and enhancement 
of the quality of life and the natural environment of 
South Walton County.


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Audubon Florida Advocate
Meeting Notice - July 2014

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Take Action: Topsail Hill Preserve State Park Needs You

Make your voice heard on July 30 to protect the gem of Walton County.

Male Snowy Plover by Marianne Korosy
 Snowy Plover

Next Wednesday, July 30, the Walton County Commission will hold a public hearing on several proposed beach accesses, including one proposal that would damage Walton’s crown jewel, Topsail Hill Preserve State Park.

Despite the fact that Topsail Hill Preserve State Park has a large public parking area which never reaches capacity and provides a convenient tram shuttle to the beach, private homeowners have requested the county build a new boardwalk access through the park to the beach, to provide their neighborhoods with direct access. No parking would be provided within the gated community for the public to use this beach access, but the public would theoretically be able to use this access by parking at an as yet unspecified location on CR 30-A and biking or walking along a county easement through the neighborhood to reach the trailhead.


In this aerial view looking west from Stallworth Lake
south of 30A, the refuge for wildlife that is Topsail Hill
Preserve State Park stands out like an island of green
and blue among the surrounding residential
development. The proposed boardwalk would
begin at the location marked with an
arrow (click image to enlarge) and cut a
path through endangered beach mouse
and shorebird habitat to the beach. 

Most of the general public will likely find it easier to use the existing main park entrance; while this is billed as a tourist development opportunity, in reality, this boardwalk will be a private access for a gated community at the expense of taxpayers and the preserve’s natural resources.

Topsail Hill Preserve State Park is named for its high, picturesque dunes, which rise like white sails against the blue-green Gulf waters. The preserve includes three miles of undeveloped white quartz-sand beaches, three dune lakes, and a vast mosaic of coastal habitats; it is a virtual island of habitat for rare and imperiled species in this otherwise heavily developed coastline.

The Florida Park Service has gone to tremendous effort to protect the integrity of this special place and its significant habitats; public access to this jewel is currently provided via a parking area set back from the beach, with a free tram to convey visitors from their cars to the beach.

This existing park entrance is 3/4 mile from the entrance to the subdivisions requesting their own boardwalk.

When approached with this proposal, the Park Service completed an evaluation, detailing the significant impacts it would pose to imperiled species and their habitats. You can view that document by clicking here.

Additionally, this access would be unstaffed, so access to the park would be unrestricted 24 hours a day, rather than confined to daylight hours as is the current practice. Management of the access, and of the additional public use to this part of the park, would come without additional funding to support it, and unrestricted accesses often see more violations of park rulesundefineddogs on the beach, alcohol, vandalism, and resource exploitationundefinedthat require monitoring and enforcement.

This proposal is not in the best interest of Topsail, its wildlife or future generations. Please consider attending the public meeting on Wednesday night.

Lend your voice to the dunes, beach mice, and shorebirds of Topsail. Ask the commissioners to abandon their request to the state to create this private beach access at the expense of taxpayers and the natural resources of Topsail Hill Preserve State Park. The existing main entrance to the park provides ample, convenient, compatible access for ALL visitors to enjoy this special place.

Public Meeting

Wednesday, July 30
South Walton Annex, 31 Coastal Center Blvd.
Santa Rosa Beach, FL
More info here.

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    South Walton Community Council; P O Box 1661; Santa Rosa Beach FL  32459

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