Gulf of Mexico
Navarre Beach celebrates new sound side boardwalk ribbon cutting (Pensacola News Journal )

Navarre Beach welcomes new ADA-friendly boardwalks on soundside in nearly $500,000 project

The soundside area of Navarre Beach is more accessible to more people now. And it's thanks to a newly completed Deepwater Horizon Natural Resource Damage Assessment Early Restoration Program project, which was touted as a community-wide effort and celebrated by commissioners and Navarre area residents Tuesday afternoon.

The $454,687 improvement project included two Americans with Disabilities Act-accessible boardwalks connecting to existing parking/pavilion areas on the east and west ends of the soundside recreation areas, an ADA-accessible kayak launch with an access boardwalk, signage to alert kayakers and paddle boarders to avoid shorebird habitats and an additional acre of planted dune vegetation.

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The project was first announced as a BP oil spill money-funded project in October 2014.

"We are so grateful to the Department of Environmental Protection for administering this project on behalf of the Santa Rosa County residents and its stakeholders," District 4 Commissioner Dave Piech said in prepared remarks at Tuesday's ribbon-cutting. "The boardwalks are a great addition to the overall beach experience for our residents and our visitors."

Santa Rosa County Commissioner Dave Piech helps Kelvin and Kyle Hall as the two youngsters help out Dave Barker, who is putting his kayak into the water at the Navarre Beach Marine Park on Tuesday.

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Santa Rosa County Commissioner Dave Piech helps Kelvin and Kyle Hall as the two youngsters help out Dave Barker, who is putting his kayak into the water at the Navarre Beach Marine Park on Tuesday. (Photo: Tony Giberson/tgiberson@pnj.com)

The boardwalks are meant to not only help visitors with disabilities enjoy the soundside area of Navarre Beach, but will also aid in the Navarre Beach Marine Science Station's educational efforts.

Charlene Mauro, director of the science station, said the boardwalks in particular would be helpful for her hands-on classroom activities.

"We have over 3,500 kids a year, and this is going to be utilized on a daily basis, not just by students but by community members as well," Mauro said. "School groups, fishing, water quality and launching ROVs (remotely operated vehicles), and it'll also be great for our wheelchair-bound guests and those that have a difficult time making it down to the water."

Five-year-old Kelvin Hall helps Dave Barker put his kayak into the water Tuesday at the newly renovated Navarre Beach Marine Park. Santa Rosa County officials unveiled the improved ADA-friendly park to the public during a ceremony earlier in the day.

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Five-year-old Kelvin Hall helps Dave Barker put his kayak into the water Tuesday at the newly renovated Navarre Beach Marine Park. Santa Rosa County officials unveiled the improved ADA-friendly park to the public during a ceremony earlier in the day. (Photo: Tony Giberson/tgiberson@pnj.com)

The science station's nonprofit, Northwest Florida Marine EDGE, wrote the initial grant for the soundside project.

Another NRDA-funded project at Navarre Beach, on the Gulf side, is still under construction. That project includes a new pavilion, a walkway, a bird-watching stand and more.

The county hopes to have the project complete by early May.

Annie Blanks can be reached at ablanks@pnj.com or 850-435-8632.