Fort Walton Beach and the Pensacola Peoples.

This article originally appeared on Parachute (an online magazine owned by MapQuest). A copy of the original article can be found here. 

I will be the first to admit it: my neighborhood and the surrounding area looks a bit boring. There is no bustling metropolis. There is no ‘scene’ (art, music, or otherwise) to speak of. Even the local shopping mall leaves something to be desired. There is urban sprawl as far as the eye can see.

While it may appear that I am dumping on my current locale, I assure you I am not. I’m just telling you what I see on a daily basis. As I have mentioned before, when I relocated here with my family, my wife and I treated every time we left the house like an exploration.

On one of our journeys, I spied, with my beady little eye, The Fort Walton Beach Indian Temple Mound. It is located in one of the most easy to miss areas I have ever seen in my life. Located on a little triangle of land, bordered by Miracle Strip Parkway, Eglin Parkway SE, and Florida Place SE, The Indian Temple Mound is, in my mind, lost amidst the restaurants and tourist traps. It’s a sad but reasonable fact.

Fort Walton Beach sits on Destin’s backdoor. Both are equally nice cities but tourists go to Destin because it is the center jewel of the Emerald Coast. Additionally, both cities are economically happier when it’s tourist season.

One day last week I had a thought: “How many people know about the history of Fort Walton Beach and it’s Indian Temple Mound?”

The Fort Walton Beach Indian Temple Mound is believed to have been built around 800 CE by the Pensacola Peoples. From what archaeologists have been able to excavate, we have learned that the Pensacola Peoples have relied more on coastal resources despite the fact that they were very successful agriculturally. Additionally, we have learned that the mound itself served as the ‘town hall’. At it’s top was the temple and residence of the Tribal Chief. Surrounding the mound at it’s base was where everyone else was presumed to live. As the chief died, it was believed that he was buried in the mound. After his burial, another layer of earth was added to it. Hence the mound’s large stature.

Eventually the mound was believed to have been abandoned in the 1600’s. One of the more popular theories has to do with the growing Anglo-Saxon occupation of the country at the time.

In the 19th century the mound was put back into use when the area at large was re-inhabited by the Confederates during the Civil War. During this time, the mound served as a camp for those who were ordered to guard the Santa Rosa Sound and the Choctawhatchee Bay.

In the 1960s, a museum was established on the mound holding the esteem of being Florida’s first municipally owned and operated museum. While there is something to be said for having a gluttonous and lethargic vacation soaking up as much Vitamin D as possible, and while it is reasonable to think that there really isn’t much to the city that you call home, it never hurts to look to the past in order to see what came before you.

The Indian Temple Mound Museum is located at: 139 Miracle Strip Parkway SE Fort Walton Beach, Florida 32548 Their normal hours of operation are: Monday through Friday 12:00pm – 4:30pm Saturday 10:00am to 4:30pm

This article originally appeared on Parachute (an online magazine owned by MapQuest). A copy of the original article can be found here. 

Top 5 Overlooked Parks in NW Florida.

This story originally appeared on Parachute (an online magazine owned by MapQuest). A copy of the article can be found here.

When it comes to divining the ‘rhyme or reason’ surrounding essentially anything in Northwest Florida, most people (read: non-Floridians) are typically left scratching their heads.

The other day, I was considering the numerous idiosyncrasies that I have encountered over the past couple of years that I have lived here. I was out accomplishing errands and towards the end of my sojourn is when I saw it. It was a nature trail trailhead tucked in between two houses. The sign at the front of the trailhead read ‘Glenwood Park’. When I got home, I did some quick Googling and soon found out that there were other parks like Glenwood in the area. (Honestly: Would you think to look for the trailhead of a ‘nature’ park in between two homes?) With that, I present to you my list of the top 5 easily overlooked parks in Northwest Florida.

Glenwood Park

Glenwood Park is located south of Laguna Park on NE Opp Boulevard in the town of Cinco Bayou, Florida. This ‘blink and you miss it’ park has a boardwalk that is over 600 feet long and a nature trail that falls just short of 800 feet. Regardless of size, both paths offer a view of unique birds and wildlife. While the park doesn’t have an exact address, you can get the general idea of where it is by looking at this.

Meigs Neighborhood Park

Meigs Neighborhood Park hardly qualifies as a ‘park’ in the traditional sense of the word. Even the casual out-of-towner would say, ‘There used to be a house there’, because that is exactly what it looks like. It looks like the city tore down a house, put up a gazebo and a pier, did some landscaping, and called it a day. Regardless, Meigs Neighborhood Park provides a nice comma to the surrounding, suburban landscape. Meigs Neighborhood Park is located off of Shalimar Drive.

Meigs Park

Not to be confused with Meigs Neighborhood Park, Meigs Park is a 5 minute drive southwest and is often considered the cooler, older sibling to Meigs Neighborhood Park what with its boat ramp and sandy beach that both provide access to the Choctawhatchee Bay. In general, this park certainly falls underneath the header ‘easily missed’ and definitely gives the uninitiated the feeling that they may be trespassing since your only way in (and out) is via a long driveway. Meigs Park is located at 45A Meigs Drive, in Shalimar Florida.

Ferry Park

Out of the 5 Parks included in this list, Ferry Park is the most ‘park-like’. It’s also one of the easier parks to find. This facility has tennis courts, an in-line hockey court, a 1- mile fitness trail, and a disc golf course. In the even that you are a parent and you’re just looking for a place to take your spawn so that they can burn off their seemingly infinite supply of energy, Docie Bass Park (what the city named the children’s play area) shares the land with Ferry Park and has some pretty sweet looking jungle gyms. Ferry Park is located at 240 Hughes St NE, Fort Walton Beach, Florida

Turkey Creek Park

Rounding out our list of easily overlooked parks is Turkey Creek Park. Turkey Creek Nature Trail & Pavilion offers a huge, well kept picnic pavilion and a boardwalk that is 3/4 of a mile long. Want to know something more? There are multiple access points to the creek for swimming. That’s right: Turkey Creek is the local ‘swimming hole’. This is the south after all. Turkey Creek Park is located at 340 John Sims Pkwy West, in Niceville, Florida.

This story originally appeared on Parachute (an online magazine owned by MapQuest). A copy of the article can be found here.