PANAMA CITY BEACH- Panama City Beach officials are committed to restoring the Conservation Park to the same state it was in, long before this area was settled.
“We have a management agreement with the state of Florida and D-E-P and in that management agreement our efforts are to return that park to how it looked 100 years ago,” said Gayle Oberst, Panama City Beach Mayor.
The park, located northwest of highway 79 and back beach road, is currently offers hiking, biking and much more.
“I love this park, I bring my kids out here. It’s so close to where we live and it’s so nice and quiet and peaceful,” said Oberst.
Many use Gayle’s Trails, which is more than 30 miles long.
The city is expanding the trails to the Hathaway Bridge, down to St. Andrews State Park and out to camp Helen.
But it all takes time and money.
"We are paving it and doing it as we can. Most of it has been paid with grants and it's a long-range project. we have about 9 miles of it paved,” said Oberst.
Dale Colby is working to restore the inside of the park.
"Many different animals and plants species can survive in the long leaf ecosystem, that's why we're trying to bring them back, said Dale Colby, Parks Resource Officer.
The restoration includes controlled burns, to allow the natural growth to flourish.
"So many of the pines were planted were for timber, paper later on, what we'll do is put the native pine back in there. We’re also preserving all the swamps,” said Oberst.
Many groups are coming out and helping plant.
"We will be working on it for the next 20 years,” said Oberst.