Since the groundbreaking ceremony back in October 2009, work on the Grand Lagoon Bridge and the surrounding area has been going exactly to plan. The 18 month project is right on track, and set for completion in April 2011. This is great news, especially as traffic problems due to the construction have been minimal, and overall vehicles are flowing well through the area with little to no delays. A new turn lane that has been put in place at the Curve is helping the situation immensely, and the City and County are working together to ensure everything runs as smoothly as possible.
The new bridge is very much needed – the existing structure was built originally in 1952 and sustained damage in 1995 during hurricane Opal. The new bridge will increase the traffic width of the bridge from two lanes to four, and will allow a waterway width of 218 feet, up from 107 feet. This will enable more water to flow in and out of Grand Lagoon, subsequently enhancing water quality and marine life, both of which are really suffering. I spoke to Ken Karr, President and CEO of The Friends of Grand Lagoon, who told me that ten years ago the bottom of Grand Lagoon was covered in sand – and that today it is a murky, sludgy substance that has no place in such a beautiful setting. “We need to raise money to get fresh Gulf water into Grand Lagoon, much as they have in similar bodies of water in Destin and Pensacola” said Karr. “These neighboring waters have crystal-clear, sparkling water from top to bottom, and even tropical fish in there. The waters are flushed every six months and replaced with fresh Gulf water – if we could achieve that here in Panama City Beach the benefits to Grand Lagoon would be immeasurable.”
So how can you help? Start by visiting the Friends of Grand Lagoon website and educate yourself on what’s happening and how we can all do our part in preserving this spectacular part of Panama City Beach history. You don’t have to live on Grand Lagoon to participate either – show your support by purchasing a Grand Lagoon discount card and saving on entertainment and eateries, or even become a member of the Friends of Grand Lagoon. As the construction continues, remember that Grand Lagoon is open for business, as enjoyable as ever, and is still an integral part of the Panama City Beach community.