A small park off the beaten path

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TONY JUDNICH @Tonyjnwfdn

DESTIN — Unbeknownst perhaps to hundreds of motorists on U.S. Highway 98 and tucked beneath trees a couple miles east of the well-known Crab Island and Emerald Grande stands what might be the smallest park in Okaloosa County.

The 0.4-acre Harbor View Park is south of the intersection of Beach Drive and U.S. Highway 98 and just east of the towering Grand Harbor condominiums. The short public access drive to the park is part of the entrance to Grand Harbor.

Destin’s Parks and Recreation Department maintains and operates 31 properties, including more than a dozen parks. Harbor View Park is a “neighborhood” park, like Destin’s 0.86-acre Main Street Park and its 3-acre Kell-Aire Park on Kell-Aire Drive.

“Typically, they serve the neighborhoods where they’re situated,” city spokesman Doug Rainer said of neighborhood parks.

A sidewalk runs between the highway and Harbor View Park, which opened in August 2000. Like all other city parks, it is open daily from dawn to dusk.

The park “is a low impact facility,” according to the city website, featuring a deck with a long wooden bench and two metal picnic tables. Destin Harbor can be glimpsed beyond trees to the south of the deck. The park has a bike rack and only one parking space, which is for disabled people.

Rainer said neighborhood parks are “set up with minimal parking and are designed so people in the surrounding area can walk to them.”

But are most city residents aware that Harbor View Park even exists?

“Some are, some aren’t,” said Destin City Councilman Cyron Marler, a Destin native and a member of one of the city’s founding families.

He said all city taxpayers are welcome to visit the park.

“Just make sure you’re not on other people’s property” while visiting, Marler said.

The entrance to the park is technically the extension and dead end of Beach Drive, he said. He also made mention of the dead end of Harbor Lane in the old part of Destin.

“The way they platted streets back in the day, that’s the way it was,” Marler said of the abrupt street ends. “So when the development order was done for (Grand Harbor), that’s how we ended up with a little pocket park. It’s just like it’s the right of way for Beach Drive.”

Marler also commented on whether many tourists know about Harbor View Park.

“I doubt they do unless they’re staying at that condominium complex,” he said. “Since it’s mostly an access to that condo, not a lot of people get to go there.”

The city’s webpage that lists Harbor View Park’s features includes a photo of a deck immediately next to a body of water, even though the park’s actual deck is a situated halfway up between the harbor and U.S. 98.

“That photo was supplied by the parks department when we set up the city’s website,” Rainer said.

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