It appears that the proposed park on Alligator Point has been abandoned.
The results of a recent public meeting on Alligator Point regarding possible purchase of property near the revetment on Alligator Drive appears to have been shelved.
While no official decision has been reached, Franklin County and the Trust for Public Lands are not pursuing the sale. Sources at the agencies emphasize that a final decision has not been reached; however, no plans for going forward are in the works.
A special meeting dealing with the former South Shoal/KOA property was held on Saturday, July 9, 2016, at Mission by the Sea Church on Alligator Drive. Numerous citizens were in attendance. Also in attendance were Kate Brown, Trust for Public Lands, Cheryl Sanders, Franklin County Commissioner, District 2, and Alan Pierce, Franklin County Director of Administrative Services.
Commissioner Sanders opened the meeting with a brief background of the South Shoal property and the recent proposal by the Trust for Public Lands (TPL) to purchase the property in order to develop it into a park which would eventually be turned over to Franklin County. She assured those in attendance that the sentiment of the community would be an important factor in the viability of the project.
Alan Pierce spoke on the details of the proposal. As a result of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010, BP has made reparations to compensate communities along the Gulf coast for their losses. TPL has been working with local communities to identify properties which might be suitable for acquisition for the purpose of creating new public parks.
Currently, the county considers the South Shoals property suitable for seven, one acre lots. The owner, Capital City Bank, is in litigation with the county in an effort to secure a higher density zoning.
By converting the property to a public park the county would add a passive park and remove the arguments for litigation. They would also have some flexibility in dealing with Alligator Drive. FEMA has stated they will contribute no further funding towards the repair of the section of road which fronts South Shoal.
By owning the property, the county could move Alligator Drive inland should the existing road suffer minor damage in a storm. They would also have room for the proposed bike path which will run from the marina to Bald Point Road. Some of the basic amenities of the park could include a public restroom, parking spaces, and access to the water – most likely in the form of a small platform over the rock revetment and a canoe/kayak launch on the bay side.
The audience asked several questions and made a number of statements, including: questions about erosion, loss of taxes, consummation of water, number of proposed parking spaces, future maintenance, a possible RV park and alternative uses. Some participants commented that Bald Point State Park is not used by people who want to bring their dogs and alcohol to the beach. The proposed park would increase that activity on Alligator Point.
Capital City Bank representative asked if the community was opposed to the idea of a park, or is there an alternative use that would be acceptable? He suggested a possible a passive or nature-focused park?
Trust for Public Land representative said this was still a conceptual plan and they are seeking public input. However three requirements which must be met are restrooms, parking, and access to the water. She reiterated that the park would remain under the ownership of TPL until it was fully developed.
Several people supported the county acquiring the property, however opposition to the idea of a park was near unanimous.
Commissioner Sanders again addressed the audience and repeated her pledge to follow the will of the people. She promised to relay the results of the meeting to the Department of Environmental Protection who is overseeing the process on behalf of the state.