RECOMMENDED PLACES: Choctawhatchee Aububon Society

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Roger Cook

Introducing a property of Okaloosa County, Florida
Veterans Park is entered from the northeastern corner of the Emerald Coast Convention Center parking lot. Thanks to Okaloosa Dept of Public Works, Google Maps now shows a pin for the "Veterans Park Rookery". Even so, the approximately 80 Great Blue Herons that nest in Veterans Park are facing development around their majestic rookery. Private citizens, CAS, USFWS, FLDEP, and FLFGC have urged County Commissioners to protect the park's birds and beautiful landscape. In January 2016 the Commissioners added 4 acres on the east side, resulting in 20 acres total. In September 2017, the County Department of Growth Management approved Tullo Planning Group's design for Commissioner Nathan Boyles suggested buffer of 84 twenty-foot-tall trees with 80% opacity and four-foot-tall sand berms (funded by Wild Willy's parent DBR Entertainment Productions, LLC) installed between Veterans Park and Wild Willy's. See the Veterans Park Buffer Map. Wild Willy's Adventure Zone broke ground in October 2017, and a rectangular retention pond was added by the gated entrance to the park. The Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission granted the County and the Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance funding to remove invasive plants (including Chinese tallow, asparagus fern, and non-native marsh grass) from Veterans Park. A DEP-approved Taylor Engineering plan calls for (1) enlarging and doubling the length of the boardwalk, (2) adding a 500-foot-long boat pier along the bay, and (3) installing a walking bridge and monument on the western (cattail) pond. In 2019, the Commissioners approved installing statues to commemorate female Veterans and development of the woodlands. Our continued vigilance is needed to make sure that these plans are undertaken with minimal damage to the park environment and wildlife.
Veterans Park 2017 buffer map
Aug 2016 letter to members
Lease map & photos
Letter from a Teacher
Walt Spence Murray Cragin Roger Cook Bruce Purdy Wendy Greene Malcolm Mark Swan
 All 200+ photos organized taxonomically...

Veterans Park on Okaloosa Island, next to the Emerald Coast Convention Center, is Okaloosa County’s premier 14-acre park, featuring dune live oaks, 5 ponds, 3 marshes, tall pines, Sabal Palms (Florida state tree, aka Cabbage Palmetto or Sabal palmetto), a boardwalk, an undeveloped beach, and views of Choctawhatchee Bay. The park's unique coastal location and habitats attract hundreds of bird species each year. Much of the park's appeal for visiting birders is the prospect of seeing something unusual, including virtually any U.S. warbler at eye level. The park's long bird list (220+) is partly attributable to severe weather that interrupts migrating (and, consequently, weary and hungry) birds. For people, the adjacent Ross Marler Park offers picnic tables and restrooms.
Recent visits to watch Veterans Park birds
Total Birds at Veterans Park in 2014