Ponder Pitches Special Needs Park To Niceville Council

Ponder Pitches Special Needs Park To Niceville Council

Exciting news! Meigs Park in Niceville might soon become a state-of-the-art special needs outdoor complex. Here's what needs to happen before the dream becomes reality:

Meigs Park may see new life as a state-of-the-art special needs outdoor complex, thanks to some help from the Okaloosa County Board of County Commissioners. 

County Commissioner Mel Ponder (R-Destin) presented his idea to overhaul the park on the west side of the City, just a quick jog to the west of the City Complex on Partin Drive. 

Ponder said the park would “be very attractive if you have a son or daughter with special needs. This park would be very compatible for anyone from that standpoint.”

The proposed special needs park would receive between a $1.5 and $2.5 million investment from the county; the City would continue to own and operate the park and pay for maintenance costs. The money would come from Tourism Development Tax Dollar funds. 

Upgrades to the park would include an eight-foot wide, quarter-mile long walking track, a ‘field of dreams’ special needs ballfield, an ADA playground upgrade, a combination basketball/volleyball court, and a large pavilion with a quiet room. 

“I was hoping that this would go in the sports complex that I’m working so hard on, to do on the Eglin site over there,” said Councilwoman Cathy Alley, “But the timing, this money has to be spent in the fiscal year, this was the best option. And to keep it in Niceville. I strongly said, ‘no, you cannot take it from Niceville. So we worked hard for this.”

The county asked, in return, the City provide on-street parking, new bathrooms, permitting assistance for the construction inside the City, ongoing maintenance and the maintenance of grants to oversee the park.

“There’s nothing else like this in Northwest Florida,” Ponder added.  

Next Steps

After the city council blessed the proposal, Commissioner and Deputy County Administrator Craig Coffey talked about next steps.

To fully fund the proposal, the City and county will need approval of state funds. That means getting with representatives in the state house and senate, Representative Patt Maney (R-Shalimar) and Senator Jay Trumbull (R-Panama City) to lobby them to advocate for state money to help fund this major renovation. 

Once the money is allocated and a formal interlocal agreement between the City and county is signed, they can hire a design engineer to turn the concepts into concrete design plans for construction. After that, the City and county must hire a contractor and begin construction.  

Niceville City Manager David Deitch told the council he has spoken to leadership at Okaloosa Technical College – who has tentatively agreed to use their “disabled students program” to build restrooms for the park. 

Christopher Saul

Christopher Saul

Christopher Saul is the publisher of Mid Bay News. He graduated from Southern Methodist University's School of Journalism with a Convergance Journalism Degree and a Master's Degree in Public Administration From Florida State.

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