Milton grows ‘the right way’ and makes great progress

Published on November 12, 2012 with No Comments

If you haven’t visited Milton in a while you will be pleasantly surprised by all the quiet progress underway.

There’s a new state-of-the-art fire station and a 25,000-square-foot community center than can also be used as a hurricane shelter. The population is growing — unusual because many cities are losing residents. New businesses are opening, required to have landscaping, sidewalks and other enhancements that make them more attractive to people passing by. Roads are being upgraded and officials are eager to make the Riverwalk area bigger and better.

It’s all part of the City Council’s plan for Milton to “grow the right way,” says Mayor Guy Thompson. “We’re a secret that hasn’t been discovered.”

Actually, the city has been discovered by some people. Population jumped to an estimated 8,984 in 2011, an increase from the 8,826 recorded in the 2010 census, up substantially from the mere 7,045 residents in 2000.

People are working to upgrade the historic district, the riverfront and the schools.

Neighborhoods are quiet, with modest but well-kept homes and big yards that appeal to young families eager to grow with the community.

Thompson says Milton High School is a big draw for parents seeking a community where their children will get a good education.

People also are looking for ways to entice Whiting Field personnel to live in Milton rather than just driving through each day.

On the waterfront

One of the biggest attractions is the Riverwalk Park on Blackwater River, which moves past Milton’s historic downtown.

Planners hope to eventually connect Riverwalk Park with Carpenter’s Park, nearly a mile away to the north, on a path that lets people walk beside the river and enjoy even more of the waterfront.

Carpenter’s Park recently received $60,000 worth of playground equipment which keeps kids swinging, climbing and laughing all day. Boat launches nearby gives boaters new routes to the river. The city also has acquired a long-vacant marina nearby. Recently the city upgraded the slips, which now are available for public lease, first come first served. Eventually the city intends to add more slips and install a fueling and dump station.

Riverwalk Park gives downtown Milton a relaxing venue for office workers and visitors. This past summer a series of free concerts — Bands on the Blackwater — drew 700-1,000 people per show. The schedule called for four concerts, but three more were added due to popular demand.

“People loved it,” said City Manager Brian Watkins, who is looking forward to the concerts again next summer.

On the other side of the river, Russell Harber Landing has been expanded, with the city connecting the northern part of the park to the Navy recreational facilities,constructing pavilions and adding a canoe/kayak launch. Come see the improvements!

Downtown changes

Downtown still has much of the historic flavor from 1844, when Milton was incorporated. Two buildings are on the Historic Register, but fire and hurricanes damaged several other buildings so badly that they were demolished. This creates holes in downtown that could be good investment opportunities.

Along those lines, the city now has a “tourism district,” where people who open restaurants, B&Bs and other tourism-related businesses can reduce or even eliminate impact fees and property taxes for five years. The city also is open to newer forms of construction — for example, a building which has a retail store on the first floor, an office on the second floor and a residence on the third floor.

The city is putting together a new signage program to help visitors find their way.

“It adds a touch of class,” says Planning Manager Randy Jorgensen. “We want to be unique in our own way.”

Besides, an attractive, exciting city is good for business. It makes passerby stop for a meal or some shopping, and it encourages more people to think about living and working in Milton.

As Thompson put it, “If they see a city that impresses them, they’re going to remember us.”

More progress

Elsewhere, the city is overhauling streets, tackling long-standing runoff problems on Sanders Street and Elva Street revamping Canal Street. New tennis courts are under construction adjacent to the Milton Community Center; they’re scheduled to be ready for the spring season. These courts will be built to United States Tennis Association standards, allowing Milton to host tournaments that will bring more visitors to town.

Not all of the work is being done by the government. Several businesses have upgraded their appearances to boost their curb appeal; McKenzie Motors, one of Milton’s gateway businesses, plans a stylish makeover of the dealership.

Milton’s positive changes are numerous and apparent to anyone who has ever spent time in the community.

“There’s a lot of work being done here,” Watkins said. “We are changing in a good way.”

Posted in City, Essentials

No Comments

There are currently no comments on Milton grows ‘the right way’ and makes great progress. Perhaps you would like to add one of your own?

Leave a Comment