On Saturday May 1st the Okaloosa Democratic Executive Committee and the Okaloosa County Democratic Environmental Caucus hosted a tour of the Gap Creek watershed. The tour was conducted by Mr. Barry Gray, a long-time resident and leader in the Sylvania Heights neighborhood.
Elected officials from Okaloosa County, Fort Walton Beach, and Cinco Bayou were invited. Fort Walton Beach City Council members Kirby Locklear and David Schmidt attended, as well as Daniel Payne, Public Works Director for the City of Fort Walton Beach. Mayor Jean Hood from Cinco Bayou also attended. County officials did not attend.
Gap Creek begins forming on the eastern edge of Hurlburt Field, and makes its way east through the City of Fort Walton Beach and parts of the County before feeding into Cinco Bayou. Decades of neglect cause the creek to overflow during storms, which creates flooding. In addition, lack of proper storm water systems mean that pollutants flow directly into Cinco Bayou, causing beach closures – especially after heavy rains.
Over the years, many local City and County officials have done their best to address these issues. Fixing the watershed in a sustainable way will require citizens putting pressure on local elected officials to work together across jurisdictions and find the money required to address this complex issue. We believe that there may be funds available in President Biden’s Infrastructure Plan for this work.
Stay tuned and email our Environmental Caucus at email@example.com if you’d like to work with us on this important issue.
You can see a short video where Okaloosa County Democratic Party Chair Tracey Tapp summarizes the tour and possible next steps HERE
Barry Gray (left) reviews photos and studies related to the watershed
Tour participants gather at Okaloosa Academy
Bridge on Beal Pkwy where Gap Creek enters Cinco Bayou
Cinco Bayou Mayor Jean Hood (left) discusses storm water issues at Glenwood Park