By DOTTY NIST
The sum of $200,000 in state grant funding was announced several months ago for improvements on the Ghentsville Park property in Paxton, and those funds will soon be on the way to Walton County.
The original 90 acres of the park property, located off Clear Springs Road, were donated to Walton County through a September 2018 agreement. Later the county acquired some 50 adjacent acres, paid for with $100,000 in county preservation funds. The additional acreage extended the park property to the shore of Lake Jackson.
Site work on the park property by county crews was initiated in April 2020.
The state funding is in the form of a Florida Recreation Development Assistance Program (FRDAP) grant from the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).
Angie Leddon, Walton County grants coordinator, noted that $200,000 was the maximum that the county could request for improvements to the park. She explained that the $200,000 would fund phase one for the park, which is to consist a playground, picnic facilities/pavilions, a restroom facility and two basketball courts.
Planned for phase two of the park is a walking/nature trail, among other improvements.
Asked about the name of the park, Leddon said the name had been a condition of the donors of the original park property, along with the condition of the county developing the property as a park.
District 2 Commissioner Danny Glidewell, who has spearheaded efforts with the new park, said he was not sure about the origin of the name but that it was being researched. During county commission discussions he had brought up that there had been a large sawmill on the property in the early 1900s and that there is a pond on the site that had been used with the sawmill. Glidewell also explained that the property had also at one time contained a large hotel that was the second hotel built in Walton County.
Ghentsville appears to have been a historic name for the community in the vicinity of the park property. According to the publication “Florida Stampless Postal History 1763 – 1861” by the Florida Postal History Society, APS Affiliate 227: “Ghentsville was established in northern Walton County near the town of Almirante just below the Alabama line. Mail was handled by postal route No. 3541.”
Glidewell said county road crews had done clearing work on the park property during the winter months and would continue with that work when the current road maintenance projects are complete.
As of press time, an agreement providing for the county to accept the grant funds for the park improvements was on the agenda for the Oct. 13 Walton County Board of County Commissioners (BCC) meeting. Leddon said work on the improvements funded by the grant could not start until the agreement was signed by the county and returned to DEP to be signed by their representative, after which DEP would give the notice to commence work.
“The grant agreement requires this work be completed by 04/30/2023, but we plan to finish way before then,” she commented.