South Crestview area someday might be home to Okaloosa County's largest park

Tony Judnich
Northwest Florida Daily News

CRESTVIEW — Okaloosa County Commissioner Paul Mixon is spearheading a proposal to turn a huge, heavily wooded property along the Shoal River into the largest county-owned park.

Its proposed amenities include a riverside boardwalk similar to the elevated and highly popular boardwalk-fitness trail at Turkey Creek Park in Niceville.

Encompassing about 187 acres, the property for the proposed park lies north of the Shoal River and southeast of the intersection of Live Oak Church Road and Shoal River Drive. It’s also a quarter-mile east and upriver from the 5-acre, county-managed Shoal River Wayside Park and the Cox Bridge segment of State Road 85.

This view from the Shoal River shows part of the potential Okaloosa County park site near the south end of Crestview. If things go as planned, it would be the largest county-owned park.

Adventure awaits:You'll have to check out these 8 unique places to explore in the Crestview area

County spokeswoman April Sarver said officials are finalizing paperwork to have the deed for the proposed park property transferred to the county from Patriot Ridge LLC.

Patriot Ridge LLC, which is led by developer Greg Matovina of Jacksonville, is developing a subdivision of up to 676 houses on more than 450 acres between Airman’s Memorial Road and Shoal River Drive. Some of the subdivision site once contained the Adara Golf Course.

As part of its development agreement, Patriot Ridge LLC agreed to dedicate the estimated 187-acre property to the county for a county-owned and -operated park. The land is valued at more than $2 million.

More places to play:Downtown Crestview park getting an upgrade with steampunk mural, splash pad

The proposed park site is within Commission District 1. Mixon began his four-year term as the District 1 commissioner last November, after the initial and later revised Patriot Ridge development agreement was approved.

Sarver said Mixon is working with county Public Works Director Jason Autrey, county Facility and Parks Maintenance Director Butch Hendrick, and members of the Army’s 7th Special Forces Group on conceptual amenities for the potential park.

“Several thousands of military men and women are members of our community,” Mixon said. “I would like to see their fingerprints on the park’s design. I hear some people say, 'Everything is Air Force here.' Bringing in something for the Army would be good for morale and the community. It also will be wonderful for the community around Live Oak Church Road to be the home of the largest county park.”

A day in the park:Niceville's Turkey Creek Park could soon get an upgrade, new amenities

Mixon envisions the park featuring a boardwalk that would extend along the Shoal River to Wayside Park. He said getting the boardwalk installed would require the approval of the Kaitlyn’s Preserve Homeowners Association, which owns the land between Wayside Park and the proposed park.

The park also could feature a kayak/canoe launch, nature trails, “some large green spaces for families to be able to play, and some type of fitness trail in the middle of it so folks can get outdoors and exercise,” Mixon said.

He doesn’t envision a boat ramp, however, because nearby Wayside Park has one. 

Mixon said he plans to form a committee, which will include members of the Special Forces Group and their spouses, to discuss ideas for the park.

Alligators are known to hang out by this large stand of cypress trees on the Shoal River near Crestview. Okaloosa County Commissioner Paul Mixon is spearheading efforts to develop a county park along the river southeast of the intersection of Live Oak Church Road and Shoal River Drive.

But first, “I have to bring (the overall concept) to the rest of the commissioners to designate the site as a county park so we can work more on these plans,” said Mixon, who wants to use waterway access money and other types of funding for the project.

“It’s a real dream of mine not to use any ad valorem tax money for this,” he said.

He added that parts of the property currently “are used as dump sites for various things, so (building a park there) would clean that up as well.”

Currently, the largest county-owned parks are Baker Park and the Baker Recreation Area, each of which encompasses more than 50 acres.