For over 100 years the Blackwater River was a bustling corridor of commerce. Miles and miles of riverfront were alive with the buzz of saws as a handful of lumber mills provided work for the majority of people in the area and exported millions of feet of cut lumber to places as far as South America, Italy, and Germany. Barges full of green cut lumber stacked for drying, some as high as two stories, stretched along the shore as far as one could see.
None of the area’s saw mills were as large as the one at Bagdad. The 21- acre site, located at the union of Pond Creek and Blackwater River, was in operation from 1835 through 1939. Operated by several differnet owners over a full century, it was last known as the Bagdad Land & Lumber Co. The thousands of acres of old-growth pine the mill owners thought would last 200 years only lasted half that long. After it’s closure, the mill buildings were dismantled and demolished.
After yeas of being used as an industrial site to produce asphalt by Anderson-Columbia, the site is being reclaimed as a public space and passive park for recreation. It was acquired by the State of Florida Board of Trustees in 2000 and was leased to Santa Rosa County for development in 2004.
The Santa Rosa County Commission in partnership with Bagdad Waterfronts Florida Partnership, Inc. and the Santa Rosa County Chamber hosted a ground breaking ceremony for Phase 1 of the Park located at 6953 Main Street in Bagdad on Wednesday, June 5.
Phase 1 construction improvements will include:
The estimated cost of Phase 1 improvements is $400,000 funded by District 2 Recreation funds, the Santa Rosa County Tourist Development Council, a Coastal Partnership Initiative Grant, International Paper Foundation and donations from the Bagdad Waterfronts Florida Partnership, Inc. and the Blackwater Pyrates.
Santa Rosa County Public Works will be responsible for the majority of the construction that will commence this summer. Phase 1 of the park is expected to be completed in the summer of 2014. Future construction phases will include a multi-purpose pavilion, gazebo, restrooms, floating boat docks, boat tie-up, boardwalks, kayak launch, and dog park and will be completed as funds are identified.