Bay County is world renowned for its natural beauty. There's the beach, of course... and the emerald green waters of the Gulf of Mexico. But it's the gems that lie hidden a few miles inland that some people find most attractive.
The county has a deal in the works for those who prefer freshwater.
Just a mile or so from the entrance to Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport sits twenty- three acres of land fronted by Crooked Creek. The St. Joe Company owns the property, but the county is trying to strike a deal.
"If we can work it out… and hopefully we can, we're getting close... we'll have a nice location for another recreational outlet," said Commissioner Guy Tunnell.
"They're obligated to donate over a hundred acres of park land to the county as part of their West Bay sector approval," said Dan Shaw, Assistant County Manager.
Shaw said whether St. Joe Company donates the land, or the county takes advantage of low property values and purchases it outright, the property would be protected for future generations. "It's important for us to tie down access points on these freshwater bodies now before development occurs and hems us in to the point where we won't be able to accomplish that," he said.
The county already maintains a park and boat ramp on nearby Burnt Mill Creek through a long-term lease with St. Joe. Shaw said the county hopes to acquire that property also and ensure it remains open to the public.
"We have beautiful assets in terms of the beaches and different areas, but to have some inland sites… gives us a good balance," said Tunnell.
According to Shaw, the Burnt Mill Creek property is valued at about $20,000. An appraisal of the Crooked Creek land is in process, he said.
Shaw said a new boat ramp on Crooked Creek could be constructed in the next six to nine months if the county can finalize the deal.