OKALOOSA COUNTY, Fla. (WKRG) — A prime location for boaters and paddlers to hit Destin and Fort Walton Beach beaches got a $1.1 Million facelift. Okaloosa County tourism and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission helped fund a new ADA-compliant water access point on the Santa Rosa Sound area on Okaloosa Island.

District 2 County Commissioner Carolyn Ketchel told WKRG News 5 that she noticed the site 5 years ago and began working to improve it.

Boat Basin before the upgrade – Google Maps

“For years nobody could really use this. It was just languished,” said Ketchel. “Now it’s an amenity that not only the people who live on Okaloosa Island, or tourists, but everybody in the whole of Okaloosa County can enjoy.”

The upgraded boat basin on Santa Rosa Blvd sits between Bluefish Drive and Caviar Drive. The area once barren now has a parking lot, floating launch structure, and a loading dock along the water’s edge.

  • $950,000 funded by Okaloosa Tourism Development Tax Revenue
  • $150,000 funded by FWC

“They can bring their boats in, they can run a paddle board, they can take a kayak out and go right into a very safe area here on the sound and have a good morning and a good afternoon,” said Ketchel.

County Commissioners and the Fort Walton Beach Chamber of Commerce cut the ribbon to open the new park on a rainy Thursday morning. Staff with the coastal resources team launched the first kayak down the wheelchair-accessible kayak launch.

“When you come here you go now this is what you want Okaloosa County to look like,” said Ketchel. “We want this area and all of Okaloosa County to be beautiful, to be a place where people want to come back, make memories with their children and generation after generation come back and enjoy it. So I think we’ve accomplished that today and I’m very proud of this.”

Commissioner Ketchel said this is the first ADA-compliant launch in the county. She hopes to expand more ADA-compliant spots along the island to help residents and visitors alike.

“So this is the only one that we’ve developed at this point, but there’s plenty of parking, there’s plenty of green space, and there’s, you know, discussion about whether to develop any others or not,” said Ketchel. “We do have many ways that people who are in wheelchairs can enjoy the amenities. We even have those huge beach bikes that will take you right to the shore. But we want to continue to make everybody, including those in a wheelchair be able to access the water so we’re talking about even putting some kind of ramping down to the water so people can enjoy it.”

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