Alice Pence and her dog Hokey spent Tuesday enjoying the beaches of Walton County, beaches devastated months earlier by Hurricane Ivan.
Alice says, “It was very sad think this area was spared the brunt of the storm, but it still makes you sad to see that.”
But county workers have been working hard on an almost $4 million restoration project to make sure Walton County remains a tourist draw.
Kriss Titus of the Walton County TDC says, “76 percent of the people that come here are repeat visitors, so they'll come back to the places that they love and they enjoy in the beaches of south Walton.”
Apparently they already have. Tourist Development officials say due to heavy promotion and fall festivals, bed tax collection in November was up 26 percent. That's the lodging tax collected from short-term visitors.
Some of that tax will pay for the restoration along with money diverted from an ongoing renourishment project of which FEMA will reimburse the county 90 percent, money seemingly well spent as visitors and residents alike have been pleasantly surprised.
"The snowbirds, I've talked to some of them that are coming now and they've said they expected it to be much worse and I don't think they'll be disappointed.”
County officials expect to finish the restoration project towards the end of May.
Walton County has received an additional $5 million from the Department of Environmental Protection for dune restoration projects.