photos provided by Scenic Walton | story by Greg Alexander
Part of the charm and quaint culture of any area comes from the welcoming feeling you experience as you arrive and pass along the roadways. South Walton has many quaint and charming characteristics and the non-profit organization, Scenic Walton exists to punctuate the area’s many attributes. As communities begin to grow and new businesses develop, it is important to protect and preserve the history, culture, and beauty of the communities and roadways.
Scenic Walton’s mission is to preserve and protect the scenic nature and beauty along the roadways of Walton County, which leads to increased property values, a robust business climate, beautiful surroundings, and enhanced quality of life. Their primary focuses are landscaping medians, reducing litter, placing utilities underground, promoting safe and interconnected pedestrian and cyclist facilities, and advocating for excellent design standards for development.
Scenic Walton has implemented measures, advocated for, and connected agencies that led to projects such as: significantly increasing mowing, edging, and trash pick-up along developed areas of US 98 and US 331 South, and improved the installation of beautiful landscaping in the medians along US 331 from the Clyde B. Wells Bridge to US 98.
Scenic Walton is determined to make a significant impact on keeping Walton County beautiful as they grow and develop by advocating for and participating in projects to improve public spaces and promote good guidelines for private development so that it is all well done and in character with our various communities. You, too, can make an impact by becoming a member.
Q & A with Leigh Moore, Board President – Scenic Walton
*What are current projects?
The East Corridor Improvement Project Committee is developing multi-use paths, median landscaping, a pedestrian/cyclist underpass at US 98 and CR 30A, and other safety improvements in the Inlet Beach area. The geography includes US 98 from Watersound Parkway to the Walton-Bay County Line and CR 30A from east of Rosemary Beach to US 98. Sections of median landscaping and multi-use path improvements as well as safety enhancements and lighting at the 98/30A intersection have been completed to date. The much-needed pedestrian/cyclist underpass at the 98/30A intersection is the current focus of the project. Over two thirds of the funding has been obtained and completion is expected in 2021.
One of our most vital goals is to see overhead utility lines and poles buried underground, which is a very complicated and expensive undertaking, but provides benefits in a multitude of areas, some of which include storm resiliency, outage reduction, safety improvements, and the facilitation of landscaping and better cyclist and pedestrian facilities. The tremendous aesthetic improvements it brings are a substantial bonus as well. To do this, we are gathering letters of support for an initiative that is being proposed by the Walton County Tourist Development Council to begin working on a plan to underground all utilities in South Walton wherever it makes sense to do so. We plan to advocate for similar efforts in other areas of the county with South Walton being a top priority due to its proximity to the coast and vulnerability to devastating economic impacts from storm damage.
We recently started our Development Design Excellence Award Program. We recognize businesses and developers who build or renovate projects that best exemplify the intent of the aesthetic guidelines in the Walton County Land Development Code. We have been proud to honor several award recipients thus far including Tom Thumb for renovation of their Sandestin location on US 98, John Fayard Self Storage, Donut Hole in Inlet Beach, McCaskill & Company, and Dixielectricar.
*What are some of the greatest challenges your organization faces?
Competing for community resources like board members and volunteers is always a challenge. In addition, building awareness of our organization in a rapidly growing community is daunting for an all-volunteer board on a tight budget, but we put a lot of sweat equity into it and get a great deal of help from our board members and the media. Another challenge is that we tend to pursue projects that cost hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars and require cooperation and resource input from local government agencies, FDOT, businesses, and the resident community. We are very proud of the partnerships we have built with these entities over the years and are extremely grateful for their past and continuing support and willingness to participate in the improvements we advocate for.
*What is the most rewarding part of your involvement with the organization?
As a board member and now president of the organization, the most rewarding thing is to watch the beautification and safety improvements that we champion actually happen, many times after years of persistence and hard work. I find it very fulfilling knowing that the positive impacts of these projects and programs are making a real difference for all residents, visitors and businesses in our area. It is a wonderful bonus that I am able to experience it for my own community.
I was hired as the part-time Executive Director for the organization back in 2008 and served for three years. When my family came back to Walton County after a brief relocation to California, I got involved again as a board member. I believe passionately in the mission of this organization and strongly desire to see our goals come to fruition.
*Where does funding come from for Scenic Walton?
Currently, our operations and programs are 100% funded by the annual membership dues of our members. This is why it is so important for individuals and businesses who support what we do to become members.
*Are there specific locations or areas of Walton County that you are focused on?
Primarily, we are focused on the major roadways throughout the county such as US 98, US 331, CR 30A, Scenic Gulf Drive, SR 20, and US 90. We like to prioritize improvements to gateways into our communities and then connect the dots between those gateways over time.
*Tell us about the relationship with affiliate organizations: Citizens for a Scenic Florida, Scenic America.
By recently becoming an affiliate of both of these organizations, we officially joined a nationwide movement to promote and support beautification projects in communities throughout the country. These alliances provide important and exciting access to resources and ideas from other affiliated communities working to make their homes and businesses more beautiful and more valuable. We are very proud to be affiliates of these organizations and believe these relationships will be an important part of taking our organization to the next level.
*Is Scenic Walton involved in any upcoming events?
We are thrilled to have been selected by Scenic America through a competitive process to co-host their annual affiliate conference this year. In addition to an exciting and fun welcome reception on the evening of October 24, we will hold a day of conference activities on October 25 that will bring valued scenic principles together in a creative, educational atmosphere. Scenic America will also hold their quarterly board meeting and an affiliate meeting here on October 26. We are so excited to showcase our area to people involved in the scenic movement from around the country.
*How can someone become involved or donate?
Become a member or learn more at ScenicWalton.org. Annual memberships start at $50/month and can be paid by check or online. The only thing our members are responsible for is paying their annual dues. In addition to the benefit of knowing they are contributing to important improvements to our communities, we provide our members with valuable information about what our organization is doing as well as what is happening with Scenic Florida, Scenic America and local government in Walton County.