Story and photo by ADRIANNE WALLINE CAMPBELL
The DeFuniak Springs City Beautification and Tree Board and Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) held a joint workshop on Nov. 4, 2021, at the DeFuniak Springs City Hall to discuss plans on correlating along with the Downtown Revitalization Board to deal with some of the issues such as blight and beautifying the city. In July of 2021, the city received a $50,000 grant to complete a Master Park Plan which the DeFuniak Springs Beautification and Tree Board will oversee. Chelsea Blaich, Executive Director of Main Street DeFuniak Springs said that the scope of work is as follows: the contractor will develop a sustainable economic matrix and master plan to address the key issues of workforce development and job creation, infrastructure needs, and promotion of tourism within the main street district.
Reynolds Henderson, Chair of the Community Redevelopment Agency, said that they had purchased a dump trailer to be used by the Code Enforcement Department.
Mike Goodchild spoke of the replanting of the oaks on main street every few years. He said we need to make sure bricks are placed around them to let the water filtrate. He said there isn’t enough room for the root system. Henderson said that he’s seen other cities use a type of metal grate around the trees that protect the roots while allowing the water to flow through.
DeFuniak City Manager Robert Thompson said that the purpose of the beautification of Main Street was to get people talking about DeFuniak Springs, and to maximize all revenue for a common direction.
Susan Bakalo said we need to have a chain of command, that is, who delegates to the agencies.
Sommer Adams said she wasn’t sure we had a clear idea of what the other’s goals are. Henderson replied that blight was a major part, to get rid of or rehabilitate nuisance structures. He has been talking with code enforcement about being proactive instead of reactive. He said the state took away the ability to make anonymous complaints. Cathy Mosley said it’s already made an improvement. Offering help instead of criticism, offering solutions where needed. Even offering high school kids to help as community service.
Henderson said that the North Walton Tourist Development Council (TDC) was getting more funds than they anticipated.
Adams said that one of the “big, exciting projects” they would like to see is the redesign of the amphitheater in the Lakeyard. She believes that the North Walton TDC funds can be used for this project.
Kim Wennerberg said they were working with the Cultural Arts Alliance and the TDC to have a mural painted on the side of the CenturyLink building as the first of a series and a flower bed. The mural would say “Greetings from DeFuniak Springs” and within each letter of DeFuniak it would have a historic or notable element of the area. Pensacola has done something similar, and she hopes the artist who they used would be agreeable to paint one here. The TDC would cover the cost of the project. Additionally, they are working with Lamar Advertising to do some panel pieces with historic photos in a series of three. The thought is that it is not permanent as an actual painting would be. Dennis Ray has agreed to have this on one of his buildings; Lamar is coming to measure.
The signage board has enough funds this year for one sign with the seal of DeFuniak. They intend on making plant beds extending to the Tesla station with drought resistant plants. Goodchild said some of the Master Gardeners could do the maintenance. They plan on spending $100,000 for the project. The initial plan is to hire a landscaper to build the project, and have the maintenance done by the city. However, the city has a deficit of workers to do the job.
They hope that the city of DeFuniak Springs, the CRA, and the Beautification and Tree Board can work together to beautify the city.