Panama City Beach - After a decade of planning, permitting and finally, construction the Panama City Beach Conservation Park is ready for it's grand opening celebration. A ribbon cutting ceremony is set for Thursday afternoon, then a community-wide fun day is planned for Saturday. NewsChannel 7 got a sneak peak at some of the park's highlights.
The 3,000 acre Panama City Beach Conservation Park has two purposes. One, to provide safe outdoor recreational opportunities for residents and visitors. Panama City Beach Mayor Gayle Oberst explains it's original purpose: "This conservation park was developed as a wet weather discharge, it allows the city to bring our retreated water and dispose of it here instead of in the bay so St. Andrew Bay is being protected."
The retreated water is pumped to a building which houses a color-coded system that redistributes the water throughout the park. "Different times of the year we send water to different parts of the wetlands to recharge the wetlands. It's all treated water that comes from the water treatment plant," said Paul Casto, the Panama City Beach Public Works Director.
While beautiful, the parks 8 boardwalks are also highly functional. "We have over a mile of boardwalk and the really interesting thing is that it takes us across the wetland. It's beautiful, if you'll notice we curved the boardwalk around trees so we didn't have to cut anything down," said Mayor Oberst.
The park showcases Florida's native species like live oak. In addition to recreational use, educational opportunities abound. "This is the outdoor classroom and we are so excited because we can see the school system bringing students out here, not only will they be able to hear about nature, they will be able to see it and touch it," said Mayor Gayle.
The ribbon cutting is Thursday at 4:30pm. The community-wide fun day begins at 8am Saturday. Hot dogs and hamburgers will be served for lunch from noon to 2pm. Giveaways and other activities will be going on all day long.