Grayton has lots of underground utilities including TV/internet cables, gas lines, phone lines, and electrical lines. Before you DIG please call 811 annd the companies will come out and mark where the lines are. There is no cost for this service.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Grayton Grapples with Parking Shortage

The Walton Sun
Adding more speed bumps on DeFuniak St. in Grayton Beach will be a topic of discussion at the June 12 meeting of the Board of County Commissioners at 4 p.m. at the Courthouse Annex.
What do you get when you put thousands of car-driving tourists in an area with fewer than 30 parking spots?
A very frustrated group of residents, including Linda Eyer and Shirley Sahlie.
“When The Red Bar is really jiving — and it will be all summer and spring break — it’s a nightmare down here,” said lifetime visitor and former resident Linda Eyer.
County officials acknowledge there is a problem, but they also see the bright side.
“With the shops plus beach access … there is a lot of traffic that goes through Grayton; there really is nothing that can be done to stop that. And we like people coming here,” said Jason Catalano, aide to Commissioner Cecilia Jones.
But, he added, “I don’t think that there is anyone that would disagree that there is a parking issue.”
For decades, Eyer and Sahlie have watched Grayton grow from a sparsely inhabited gulf-side town to a destination on every 30A tourist’s agenda.
But the come-uppance of Grayton must not have been in the original inhabitants’ plans, as they missed the foresight to plan for such an influx of people and cars. And this is leading to one major problem: parking.
“They park everywhere,” added Sahlie, who lives off DeFuniak Street just a few doors down from the beach access and the handful of restaurants and shops off downtown Grayton’s Hotz Avenue.
The sisters remembers when that street held only The Grayton Hotel and the building that now houses The Red Bar, which was at the time only a store, a few benches, and a dance floor.
“It was idyllic,” said Eyer, who remembers when DeFuniak Street backed up to Grayton State Park.
But now that the neighborhood traffic includes thousands of tourists during the season, and with the fewer than 25 parking spots quickly filled, the droves of people coming to enjoy The Red Bar, Shorty’s, Gypsea or The Zoo Gallery are left wondering where to park.
So these intrepid visitors find spots in front of homes and along both sides of Grayton’s streets.
“When anything happens down here, people park in the street because there’s no place to go,” said Eyer.
With her home’s prime location, Sahlie has been plagued with this parking problem personally. Though she used to use soap on car windows as a means to reprimand those who ignored her no parking signs, Sahlie has had to get a bit more direct. Now, along with the signs along her fence, Sahlie has concrete pots and a chain across her driveway to impede drivers from parking alongside her home.
“You get to that point, you just don’t have patience with it anymore,” said Eyer, whose solution to her annoyance was to move 50 miles north from Grayton Beach to escape the crowds.
But the problem isn’t just the inconvenience to residents, as the crowded streets pose a more dangerous problem, one which came into focus during July fourth weekend in 2009.
A fire truck coming to respond to a call in Grayton Beach was unable to get to the scene of the incident because the streets were so crowded.
Later it was confirmed the “fire” was just smoke from a grill.
“We’re lucky that it wasn’t a big emergency, but it brought light to the situation. We started looking at what options there could be,” said Catalano.
Whether the conversation is about changing the flow of traffic on Hotz Street or trying to establish a public transportation system, those at Commissioner Cecilia Jones’ office are looking into the issue.
“There’s a lot of moving parts, but it’s definitely something we’ve identified. We will work with business owners and residents to do what we can,” said Catalano.
The sisters agree there is a solution, perhaps in the form of northern satellite parking lots, from which patrons could be shuttled in, relieving the congestion on DeFuniak and other Grayton streets.
But what they really want is a balance.
“It’s not that we don’t want everyone to have good business,” said Eyer. “It’s just that everyone pays the price.”

Monday, May 14, 2012

Sea Turtle Season May 1st 0 Oct 31st

What to expect from an expectant turtle

The Walton Sun
Turtle season kicked off across the Emerald Coast on May 1 and volunteer turtle walkers have begun their annual daybreak walks to look for the distinctive tracks sea turtles leave behind on our beaches.
Sharon Maxwell heads the organization known as the South Walton Turtle Watch. She began walking South Walton's beaches in 1993 at Grayton State Park for the Parks System. She helped form South Walton Turtle Watch in 1995. The organization consists of all volunteers who walk the county's 26 miles of beaches just after daybreak each day, searching for the “crawls” of sea turtles. These trails most often mean the female turtle came ashore during the night and laid her eggs in a nest she dug in the sand.
The sea turtles are listed as endangered in this area, and include the Kemp’s ridley, green, loggerhead, and leatherback.
The nests are marked and watched until the eggs hatch between July and October. The gestation period for hatching in this area is a little over two months.
So far, no nests have been found, which is not unusual for this time of year, said Maxwell.
"The water temperature has to be 81 to 83 degrees before we see anything," she said. The current water temperature she believes is around 77 degrees.
The first nest is not normally found until May 15-21.
"No one has seen any crawls yet," she said. "Port St. Joe and Panama City see crawls before we do and they haven't seen any yet."
In recent years the typical nest count has been around 30 per year. Last year's count was 32. In 2000, however, there were 58, which was a high year. Maxwell doesn't think we will see that many this time around.
"We used to have 40 and above, but I don't think there are that many sea turtles any more. We are on a downward trend," she said.
However, she is hopeful.
"Leatherbacks and greens are up on the East Coast, so, hopefully our loggerheads will be too," she said.
Maxwell explains that there are loggerheads throughout the world, but the ones that come up on our beaches are a sub population that are unique to our white sandy beaches and, as a whole, are a threatened population.
"There are not that many," she said. "They are dwindling due to the changing of our beaches. There are more people on the beach at night than there used to be and a greater number of sea walls."
However, the obstacles facing the turtles start in the Gulf with things such as long-line fishing, and every year they are hit by boats, said Maxwell.
"They are trying to compete with man and hopefully man will try to be a better friend. It's not that we're bad people, we just get into what we're doing," she said.
Those “doings” include not complying with lighting ordinances, using flashlights on the beach at night, and throwing plastic bags into the Gulf.
"When people throw plastic bags into the Gulf, the turtles see them and think they are jellyfish and open their mouths," she explained.�
She also warned about leaving objects on the beach. If a turtle encounters an obstacle on land, whether human or something man-made, they will usually turn and go back into the water without laying their eggs.
"If you're on the beach and a turtle comes ashore, stand back and give her plenty of room," said Maxwell. "Don't touch her. And if any help is needed, call the Walton County Sheriff's Department."
Turtle season runs May 1 through Oct. 31

Thursday, May 3, 2012

A Bridge in the Balance?

Residents to decide fate of half-cent sales tax on May 8th       ( TAX PASSES)  

The Walton Sun
For poll locations, visit www.votewalton.comU.S. 331 multi-lane project meeting
The Florida Department of Transportation will hold a public information meeting regarding the design of State Road 83 (U.S. 331) from two to four lanes starting at Edgewood Circle and ending at S.R. 8 (I-10) in Walton County. The meeting will be held May 10 from 5 to 6 p.m. at the DeFuniak Springs Community Center located at 361 North 10th Street. This meeting will allow citizens an opportunity to preview the proposed design, ask questions, and/or submit comments concerning the upcoming project.

The intent of the project is to increase the vehicular capacity of the corridor. The proposed typical section will consist of two 12-foot travel lanes in each direction, separated by a 40-foot grass median, 12-foot outside shoulders (five-foot paved) and 8-foot inside shoulders (unpaved) are proposed. This project is not currently funded for construction.
Soon after the polls close May 8, residents of Walton County will know whether or not they will fund the 331 bridge expansion with a half-cent sales tax increase.
Hundreds have already voted in the early voting period, which ends Saturday at 4:30 p.m., at both the South Walton Courthouse Annex and in DeFuniak at the courthouse. Voting will be open again May 8, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Voters may vote in their election day precincts, at the regular ballot casting locations.
If the tax does not pass, it is up to the Board of County Commissioners to decide how to proceed with the project. The results of the vote will decide if the county implements a half-cent increase in sales tax or if county commissioners discuss putting a toll on the bridge.
Rather than frame the discussion in terms of a tax or a toll, the Walton County Taxpayers Association has stepped forward with a third consideration — that it is fruitless to discuss how to pay for something we don’t need.
“The bridge is not essential. Not in the near term, and not in the intermediate term,” said Don Riley, president of the WCTA, which has embraced the motto of “No tax, no toll.”
FDOT has dedicated $375 million for the entire 331 four-lane project, and of that, less than one-third will be used for the bridge. But in order for Walton County to receive that $102 million, the residents must come up with $75 million.
Though the watchdog group seems to be balking at the cost of the match, Walton County administrator Greg Kisela thinks this is a great opportunity.
“This commitment by DOT, in my mind, was a deal maker for us,” said Kisela of the $375 million, which he thinks makes $75 million look like a relatively “small investment.”
Though the WCTA now stands firm in its course of action, at one point, they were almost convinced to support the project.
In March of this year, Riley, along with Bonnie McQuiston and J.B. Hillard of the WCTA, and four county commissioners, met with Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Ananth Prasad in Tallahassee to discuss the project.
“ ‘The time is now,’ ” Riley recalled Prasad’s message. “He made a very persuasive argument.”
Prasad also reportedly floated the idea of mitigating the cost to Walton County residents north of the bay by means of discounts and flat monthly fees.
The group came away from the presentation impressed with the project, but then later, when they asked for specific numbers about the toll discounts, they were told the specific numbers would not be available until after the referendum, according to Riley.
Not knowing what they were signing up for, the WCTA polled its members. Nearly 800 members of the group responded to the emailed survey. Seventy-five percent voted against the tax and 67 percent voted against the toll, according to a news release from the association. The north part of the county was more strongly opposed than the south, the news release stated.
With the survey in hand, Riley sees this project as indicative of a larger problem with fund-prioritization in governments from as small as Walton County to as large as the federal government.
“It’s time to stop and closely examine what we have been doing — what our core responsibilities are,” said Riley. “This county could spend its money more wisely than it has, than it is doing.”
But Kisela, as the county spokesman, sees this as a worthwhile project for socioeconomic development of a main vein for travelers — especially during hurricane evacuations and tourism season.
“It’s the only north-south corridor we have,” said Kisela.
He also spoke to another criticism that the bridge funding debate was taking place years before the four-laning of Hwy. 331 was to be completed.
“The initial concern was that we had the cart before the horse, and now they’re both going to be done at the same time,” said Kisela of the 2017 completion date for both projects.
But the WCTA is not backing down from the stance that the bridge expansion remains unnecessary at this juncture.
“This bridge is a real low responsibility,” said Riley.