Choppers for Navarre Beach?
by Louis Cooper
A growing number of entrepreneurs are proposing new tourist attractions for Navarre Beach, including helicopter rides.
Santa Rosa County commissioners heard two proposals on Monday to bring inflatable play stations — one in the water and one on land — to the beach.
County Commissioner Jim Melvin, whose district includes Navarre Beach, welcomed the potential economic impact.
“There is only one way out of this financial situation we’re in, and that’s to grow our way out of it,” he said. “If we don’t offer more of a tourist draw, we’re not going to get more tourists. It’s just that simple.”
The Portofino management firm Premier Islands Management Group proposed bringing an inflatable “aqua park” to Santa Rosa Sound, just east of the Navarre Beach Bridge. It would include a collection of interconnected inflatable slides and climbing structures.
The second idea was to bring an inflatable slide called the Xelerator to a sandy area near the pier. Navarre business owners Tony and Kimberly Carraway proposed that project.
The Xelerator is similar to slides in Pensacola, Panama City and Orlando, Tony Carraway said
“We’ve got four children. Whenever we load them up to go to the beach, they always want to go to Destin or to Pensacola,” he said. “If we can keep our local families here, when their families come here, they will stay here instead of driving to our neighbors and spending their money there.”
The commissioners are expected to discuss the proposals at Thursday’s regular commission meeting.
Both attractions would be located on county-owned property. Commissioner Jim Williamson said he thinks the county should seek competitive proposals.
“If we’re going to entertain doing something like this, you need to open it up to other people who may want to do the same things,” Williamson said.
County Administrator Hunter Walker said the standard request for proposal process would take much of the summer to complete. County Attorney Angela Jones said the commission could enter into a short-term agreement, like for the summer, and then seek proposals that could result in long-term agreements.
Commissioners also are expected to consider later this month a proposal to bring helicopter trips to Navarre.
A new business called Navarre Water Sports wants to bring helicopter tours to Navarre Beach.
The company, located on Santa Rosa Sound on U.S. 98 just east of the Navarre Bridge, opened in time for Memorial Day weekend. Currently, it offers pontoon boats, scooters, personal watercraft rentals.
The helicopter service would be managed by subcontractor Timberview
Helicopters, which offers similar service out of Pensacola, Destin and Panama City.
Navarre Water Sports partner Kirk Bergeron said many patrons have told him that they stay in Navarre because of its affordability but travel to Destin for activities.
“People go on vacation and they look for fun things to do. One of the most intriguing things to see is the beaches from the air,” Bergeron said. “Navarre needs something for people to do.”
The proposal is set to go before the Board of Adjustments on Thursday. The project will require special permission because helicopter rides are not allowed under the zoning rules for that area.
The Board of Adjustment is an advisory body. The commission could consider the proposal at its June 20 meeting.