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Just returned from 30-A and Destin - visitor review

Discussion in 'All About SoWal' started by photocat, May 3, 2005.

  1. photocat

    photocat Beach Comber

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    Hi All,

    I've posted a couple times but mostly lurked. This is an AWESOME site and has provided a lot of useful information. I hope to return the favor, especially to fellow lurkers and soon-to-be vacationers. Sorry in advance for the length.

    I just got back from getting married in Seaside and honeymooning in Seacrest. While there, we drove to Okaloosa Island to the very western edge of Panama City and many stops inbetween.

    The last time we vacationed there it was Sept 2001 (just after the 11th of all things) so it has been awhile and one major hurricane since I've been there. Many changes and/or a somewhat foggy memory, but here is what I can report.

    Buildings
    Most of the structures don't show any sign of hurricane damage. A few blue tarps remain - more so in the Destin / Ft. Walton area than 30-A but a few roof repairs were taking place in Seacrest while we were there.

    A ton of new construction. How many high rise condos can go in one small area of Destin?! I can't imagine peak season with all of those rooms filled to capacity - can you even get out of the parking lot? They all seem like lovely buildings but it seems a bit overwhelming.

    A ton of "for sale" signs everywhere. I'm not sure if that is typical and/or seasonal or a fear of increased hurricane activity - or some combination of all three.

    Beaches
    The ones I saw included (from west to east): Destin (by the Crabtrap restaurant); Dune Allen, Blue Mountain, Seaside, Seagrove, Seacrest.

    All of the dunes I saw have been rebuilt nicely - many with newly planted sea oats and newly constructed fences. The most shocking (and sad) was the fact, there is hardly a beach left.

    I knew from the "since Ivan" shots, the beach was going to be noticeably smaller - I just wasn't expecting it to be that signficant. We stayed in the Monterey Condos in Seacrest and beach service set up a few feet from the newly constructed fences on the dunes. High tide often rolled in under those beach chairs only a few feet from the bottom of the dunes. One morning (not high tide) a line of thunderstorms moved through and the waves were coming in right at the bottom of the dunes.

    Sand
    Since there was little beach, most of the sand was packed down from tides and not that white fluffly soft sand I remembered walking on and digging my toes into from Sept 2001. (That white fluffy sand is stacked nicely on the dunes though). It was also more sand color (not white) perhaps because it was wet and a lot of black sand marbled throughout. In all the places we stopped, I thought Seaside's beach actually looked the worst compared to the others. But I still got married in that sand nonetheless (and wouldn't have it any other way!) :D

    Weather
    This is my first April trip (4/21 - 4/30). We had one stormy morning that cleared up by lunch and sunny the rest of the time - no complaints there. Temps ranged in the low 70's most of the time. The only complaint I did have is the wind. It was unrelenting the entire time we were there. I think there may have been one "green flag" day where you could swim in the gulf - if you didn't mind the fact it was pretty cold water. The rest of the days were yellow or red flag days and the gulf was churned up constantly (no emerald green waters). The wind made it too cold to sit out on the balcony to enjoy the gulf - early in the week beach goers on the beach, in the sun, were wrapped up in towels, long pants and sweatshirts. If the wind wasn't so bad, it would have been perfect weather. Inland at the shops, it was still windy but not as bad, or as cold.

    We enjoyed dining at Goatfeathers, Pandora's, Shades, Bud and Alleys, and the Crabtrap as well as hitting all the shops.

    We'll be back - not sure if we'll do an April trip again just because it was too cold and windy for us to enjoy our normal hanging out at the beach (and we like to take a dip in the gulf too - definitely too cold for that).

    We like Sept/October however that whole hurricane thing is a bit risky then (we were scheduled to get married in October and had to postpone due to Ivan).

    I also hope they don't gate up all of the communities because we also like to see the houses and also look for new vacation spots when we are down there. There seemed to be a lot of gated communities (including our condo) preventing such traffic. I can understand why they do it but it is a bit prohibitive to attracting new future customers.

    Off to get some much needed sleep after my fun adventures on 30-A.

    Sue
     
  2. kurt

    kurt Admin Staff Member

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    Hi Sue! Thanks for the great info. The "for sale" signs everywhere are people cashing in and turning properties. It's a reflection of the hot market.

    The high water is a result of a very stormy month or two and the beach scraping. It will take some time for new sand to be deposited on the beach where it has been removed and pushed up along the dune line.

    Congrats and all the best.
     
  3. Ocean Lover

    Ocean Lover bean

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    Congratulations on your wedding! I'm sure it was beautiful. We would love to see any pictures you have. Thanks for the report!

    Tina
     
  4. JB

    JB Beach Fanatic

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    Good report, photocat. Sorry to hear about the beaches. Sounds like they are in even worse shape than I imagined. I know it took more than five years after Opal for them to become semi-normal looking. Such a shame.
     
  5. katie blue

    katie blue kt loo

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    ..and the weather services predict stronger than normal hurricane activity for the next decade or so. in my section of seacrest, at least half the beach is black exposed peat rock due to the storms and scraping. :sosad: i know brad pickel keeps saying the wind will bring it back eventually, but it's hard to imagine waiting five years.

    seems so logical to me to replenish the beach, as it would be valuable protection to the gulffront structures and to the tourist industry that helps drive the south walton economy. i know, some people are worried about sand color and whether it would increase the amt. of traffic on one's "private" beachfront, but that seems like not seeing the forest for the trees. (having 50-100' more beachfront would keep tourists *farther* from your property, wouldn't that be right?) i'd love to hear thoughts on this (on another thread.)

    anyway, THANKS for a wonderful trip review, we'd all love to see more of these! :clap_1: ps, it was an unusually blustery weather week last week, all along the southeast coast. not always that chilly in April.
     
  6. kurt

    kurt Admin Staff Member

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    We're in better shape now than after Opal. If it wasn't for the beach scraping we'd be back to normal as far as sand on the beach, except for the dune line, which would have taken longer.
     
  7. Ocean Lover

    Ocean Lover bean

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    What is the purpose of beach scraping? Do they move the sand they scrape up to the dunes? And then how long does it take to get the white quartz sand to build up again? From the Grayton pictures Kurt posted lately, the beach looks great. Are there some areas worse than others?
    Didn't Seaside "import" sand right after Ivan?


    Tina
     
  8. kurt

    kurt Admin Staff Member

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    Yes - the beach scraping was to build the dunes where they were washed away along the fronts. All for naught if sea oats (to be planted shortly) don't have time to take hold and a big storm comes in the next couple of years.

    Grayton Beach has all new sand on it and was not scraped.
     
  9. lenzoe

    lenzoe Beach Fanatic

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    Anyone heard any updates on the sea oats project. Or seen any?
     
  10. kurt

    kurt Admin Staff Member

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    last I heard is that the comission just approved the bid so it should start anytime.
     
  11. Ocean Lover

    Ocean Lover bean

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    Where does the new sand come from?
     
  12. kurt

    kurt Admin Staff Member

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    Sorry I should have specified. It was not trucked in like at Seaside and WaterColor.

    The new sand at Grayton was washed and blown onto the beach by winds and water.

    Basically what happens during a hurricane is a lot of the sand on the beach and the dunes, as well as the 1st and 2nd sand bars, is pulled just offshore.

    Over time, the wind and waves push it back up to the shore, reforming the sandbars and depositing it back on to the beach. In our area, a lot of the sand is transferred East to West also from prevailing currents.

    The brown sand they used to renourish Panama City Beach will end up on South Walton beaches eventually. How much and to what effect we'll have to wait and see.

    The beaches rebuild themselves nicely if left alone in almost all areas. Beach scraping / adding sand is supposed to hurry the process and protect structures that are built too close to the dunes.
     
  13. Smiling JOe

    Smiling JOe SoWal Expert

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    Not true. The Gulf-front property owners own to the Mean High Tide line. No matter the length for the Beach extension, the property owner owns to the Mean High Tide. Therefore, tourists would be no farther from the private property. However, the tourists could potentially be farther from any buildings on the property by allowing the Beach extension.

    Replacement Beach Sand was on the previous BCC agenda. I believe they tabled it to the next meeting, but I do not recall for certain. One of several problems is the lack of pits in the area with white sand. I know Owl's Head and Eglin AFB are two sources for the white sand. I think it sounds so trivial to hear people say five years is a long time for the Beach to recover on its own, considering that the two aforementioned places in Freeport were at one time Gulf-front -- that is ther reason why the white sand is there. Patience is needed. Stop beating up Brad P. Another major problem of beach sand replacement is that while one load of the replacement sand meets the code, the next load from the same area, may not meet code. Problem -- who is going to monitor each load? The County will need more than one full time staff person at each pit just to monitor the sand coming in to the Beach. The County is rewriting the terms of Beach Sand Replacement.

    In summary, it seems that many people around here feel the need to accomplish things yesterday. Let us remember the beauty of beach life and understand that amazing things take time to create. Leave your watch behind if necessary. Relax, you're at the Beach. The world continuously undergoes change.

    Regarding the plantings of sea oats, there is mention of such in a recent Walton Sun, with info on amount of money set aside and time frame. Maybe SoWalSally can pull it up for us. :idontno:
     
  14. katie blue

    katie blue kt loo

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    Ouch, that came off kind of mean, Joe. I wasn't beating up Brad at all. I simply quoted him. In fact, he's just about *the* nicest government employee i've ever had the pleasure of speaking to... SO helpful and responsive.

    Gosh this is why I don't usually post on forums...
     
  15. Smiling JOe

    Smiling JOe SoWal Expert

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    I say it in jest. Brad is always getting the short end of the stick. I changed the wording from the original thought which was going to be, "Call Brad Pickle and voice your opinion. He would welcome your comments." He often gets calls which he politely makes his way through. He is a very nice guy, and I think he is doing a good job.
     
  16. kurt

    kurt Admin Staff Member

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    In general, Brad has gotten some heat here before, dealing with people's frustrations. We all need to express ourselves freely here. Remember that Joe is always smiling while typing, or otherwise engaged. :cool:
     
  17. photocat

    photocat Beach Comber

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    Thanks all for the well wishes. I do have a ton of pictures and I'll try to post some - never done that before - advanced forum participation 101! :)

    The dunes at Seaside (and most of the places we stopped) look great and do have newly planted sea oats. The dune right in front of our condo just had the fence constructed the week we were there, perhaps sea oat planting isn't far behind.

    I agree with Kurt and others - SoWal is worth the wait, the beaches will be back stronger than ever given some time. They are still beautiful now - they will be outrageously goregeous in the near future.

    On a side note, my family had never been there before so they don't have any memories to compare. They stayed in Seagrove and LOVED it. They thought it was wonderful and beautiful. They were there the week prior to our arrival and had much better weather (not that ours was bad - just chilly and blustery)

    Sue
     
  18. Smiling JOe

    Smiling JOe SoWal Expert

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    For the warm weather, it is best found in May. April is not bad, but the wind will cool off any warmth you may get from the sun. I have learned to wear dark colored clothing, hat and jacket when going to the beach in April, especially for sunset. Even this evening with temperature being around 72F, I feel cool at the Beach. The sand is cool on the bare feet.

    Sounds like you had a great time regardless. Congratulations for tying the knot.
     
  19. lenzoe

    lenzoe Beach Fanatic

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    Photocat,

    Thanks for the review. We were down there the first week in April and they were busily scraping away. I think the permit the County had to scrape ran through April 15, so you were probably there just after the last round of scrapings.

    Scraping does short-change the beach-front temporarily, but it's surprising how much the beach front changes, even on a day to day basis. A few days after they'd scraped at our place another sandbar had migrated from the gulf to the front of the beach, the tide was lower, and the beach looked like it was on its way to lengthening again.

    I was surprised on your comments about Seaside's beach. I didn't know they were scraping there.
     
  20. seagrovelover

    seagrovelover little sugar

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    Thanks for such a great report!!!! we will be heading down in june, I am sad to hear your beach and sand reports...but I dont care, it is still the best place in Florida to vacation :wub:
     

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