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Crab Island is business as usual

Erin Franczak
efranczak@nwfdailynews.com
Northwest Florida Daily News

DESTIN -- Crab Island is business as usual this year, with a few exceptions. Many of the usual island vendors have decided not to return to the well-known boating spot.

Eli Owens, who owns Crab Island Water Park LLC, said due to the recent ordinance changes on Crab Island, he can no longer set up inflatables at the popular location.

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The new ordinance says that each floating structure and vessel are required to be removed from the area from sunset to sunrise. This means Owens would have to set up his inflatables every single day, and his process for setting them up takes approximately two days and a team of four people.

“It’s so intricate,” he said.

While the inflatables will not be available any more, Owens said he is still running a smaller commercial vessel that sells pool floats and other beach items.

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Last year, the popular destination was home to around 10 floating structures and about 20 commercial vessels.

This year, only two floating structures and 13 commercial vessels were issued permits.

One of these permitted vessels is Sea Cow LLC, an ice cream shop. Owner Jacob Montague said he sells hand-scooped ice cream, Dippin’ Dots, smoothies, and sno- cones.

“(The ordinance) makes it a little more difficult,” he said.

Because of the new restrictions, most of the vessels on Crab Island this year are pontoon and recreational boats.

The Okaloosa County Board of Commissioners approved the new measures earlier this year. Kelly Windes, county commissioner for district 5, said the area was becoming too crowded and commercialized.

“In general, the citizens are more happy with it,” Windes said.

The lack of floating structures and other inflatables hasn’t stopped visitors from heading to Crab Island.

Sergeant Brian Parkton, of the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office Marine Unit said the number of people venturing to Crab Island for the weekdays is relatively average for this time of year, but the weekends are another story.

“The weekends are extremely busy,” Parkton said.