HOLT, Fla., Aug. 17, 2017—Okaloosa County has begun the first stages of building a new public park in Holt.
The 3-acre property, owned by the Holt Fire District, is off U.S. 90 just east of the town where the speed limit signs change from 45 to 55 mph (or 55 to 45 mph, if driving west).
The park is designed with a community center, picnic pavilion, a smaller picnic area, playground, walking trail and parking lot, enclosed by a chain-link fence.
A new fire station will also be on the property as soon as the district secures a grant to pay for the building.
“We’re working on a walking trail right now, clearing trees,” said James Puckett, facilities maintenance manager for the Okaloosa County Facility and Parks Division. “I want to keep it as shady as I can. We’re taking out a lot of pine and taking out very few oaks.”
Five-man crews will work two days a week on the project, along with state prison work crews to help with construction, he said.
The park was planned more than a couple of years ago, but there was no work toward building it until recent land clearing.
“This has been a rollover project for me,” said Nathan Boyles, Okaloosa County District 3 commissioner. “I don’t want this to be a three-year rollover project. We have enough money to act now and do some good.”
The design for the community center will be based on the center at Blackman, Fla., on state route 189.
Like Blackman’s, Holt’s community center will include a covered pavilion. Roughly 40 feet by 75 feet, the building will have a large meeting area, kitchen, three handicap-accessible restrooms and storage.
A men’s and women’s restroom will open to the outside for use by park visitors.
While not requested, Puckett said, the community center building will be designed as a hurricane shelter. The walls will be 8-inch poured-solid concrete with reinforcing steel.
The interior walls will also be poured-solid walls. The building will have metal doors and a hipped roof.
Building the center to hurricane standards makes sense for the area, said Puckett, who lives just outside the Holt community limits.
“This facility will be very beneficial to the community out here,” said Boyles, who is also a Holt resident.
New fire station
The Holt Fire District is looking for grant money to finance a new fire station on the property.
“To say we need a new station is an understatement,” said Angie Holland, Holt Fire District commissioner.
Grant requests require a site plan—utilities, driveway connection, storm water drainage, etc.—and a building design.
“We’re looking for a station the size of Baker’s Fire District,” said Jim Connors, Holt Fire District commissioner. “A draft design to Okaloosa county is the next step.”
Putting together an overall site plan for the grant will be done once the station design is submitted, said Boyles.
The fire district also must work with Okaloosa county for electricity and gas connections. The county must work with Florida Department of Transportation for proper access off U.S. 90 to the property.
“We’ve been extremely patient with [the delay in building the park],” Holland said about moving forward on the new fire station. “We’re cautiously optimistic.”
According to Boyles, the park will be completed during fiscal year 2018.
“You’ll start seeing a little more activity,” said Puckett. “Someone will stay on this project from now on.”
All county parks open one hour before sunrise and close one hour after sunset. The Holt park will operate under the same schedule.
The pavilion will be available for after-hour functions, but the playground and walking trail will be closed at night.
Holt has two other Okaloosa County public parks–the Guest Lake Park Boat Ramp and the Bryant Bridge Boat Ramp area.