Weathering Change

The Forgotten Coast continues to weather changing and challenging economic times but remains a great place to live, work and playWeathering Change Forgotten Coast trend-spotters see a glimmer of sunshine on the economic horizon

By Jason Dehart
Photo by Scott Holstein 

It’s hard to imagine a nicer place to live or visit than the Forgotten Coast. The inland bays are blue and sparkling, the forests and estuaries teem with animal life, and the beaches are among the best in the world. Tourism is thriving, new hotels are springing up, and a new hospital is taking root. In short, great things are happening in Wakulla, Franklin and Gulf counties.

But these are challenging times. Nationwide, there are vexing problems that trickle down to every tiny community, and the communities of the Forgotten Coast are feeling the crunch.

Chief among these problems are high gas prices and a nagging real estate slump that doesn’t seem to want to go away anytime soon.

But it’s not just the trickle-down problems giving people the shivers. Certain areas of the Forgotten Coast face their own challenging issues. For example, an environmental mandate from the Wakulla County Commission means some property owners are going to have to pay for a new type of advanced septic tank. The treatment performance of these new tanks goes over and above current standards, but they’re expensive – around $7,500, compared to $2,000 for a standard tank.

Meanwhile, in Franklin County, oystermen and fishermen in Apalachicola Bay continue to hang on to their livelihood despite a drought upstream in Georgia that has spurred the Army Corps of Engineers to reduce flows on the Apalachicola River. Those reduced flows have had a definite impact on the river’s ecology and, in turn, the $200-million local seafood economy.

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But things are looking up for other parts of Franklin County. Carrabelle scored big last year when GreenSteel Homes/Hexaport Building Systems of Florida came to town. At full output, they will employ up to 350 people with full benefits. A new nursing home will open in June, and the new Consolidated Franklin County School is expected to open in the fall.

In short, there’s much excitement in the air.

“Our tourism is way up,” said Anita Grove of the Apalachicola Bay Chamber of Commerce. “We’re looking pretty positive.”

“Families like to move here because we have one of the best school systems in the state,” said Bonnie Holub of the Wakulla County Tourist Development Council, about her county.

“We have growth – not booming, but certainly progressive,” said Marcy Randig of the Gulf County Tourist Development Council.

That’s what makes the Forgotten Coast the jewel of the Big Bend. People will continue to flock there, be they tourists or young families, because the three counties have something special to celebrate. While it is true that you can’t predict the future, one thing that can be predicted is the resiliency of the people who live, work and play along the Forgotten Coast.

Categories: Forgotten Coast 2008, Forgotten Coast Archive