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.

This is the closest I have been to Bat Country.

For the last three years, I have been living in Japan. Shortly after I had returned to my home land, I had unwittingly murdered a lizard. Out of the 19 types of lizard that are native to this region, I had happened to get acquainted with the only one that wanted to live in my shoe like a damn elf. 


I am not one for air travel. I would have liked to have been in my 20’s. What 20-something doesn’t yearn for travel and shenanigans outside their place of origin? I was no exception to that same yearning. Regardless, I missed out on travel due to circumstances that were out of my control. I think that if I did have that opportunity, I would not have seen all air travel for the horror-show that it is. Instead, I probably would have seen it as “just people coming together, man.”

Perhaps it worked out in my favor that travel became a lot hard in the 2000’s?

Regardless, my wife and I had spent the last three years in Japan with our family on a work trip. Eventually, the work ended and we needed to come back to the States for more work. Thanks to my wife’s employers, for the next year we are going to be living in Arizona.

Admittedly, I was a bit nonplussed about living in the desert. It’s the desert.

Sure, it’s a nice change of scenery when you contrast it against Japan. But when you look past the landscape, Arizona is an immigrant state, a state that doesn’t know what it wants to be. The southern portion of that state seems vast and dangerously hot while the top portion is full of forests and temperatures that everyone can live with.

When you consider the population growth over time, you can’t help but see that no one is from here, “originally”. Phoenix is presently the only capital in the US that has breached the 1 million inhabitants. Thanks to this growth, the need for expansion is constant. While this is ok for the economy, what people aren’t aware of is the fact that most building materials retain heat. Because of this expansion and heat retention, the “hot season” has started three weeks earlier and ended three weeks later, as of January 2019. This in turn, has resulted in air conditioners being run on a near constant basis. On top of that, more people are driving (instead of embarking on other modes of transport, because it’s too hot…) which has in turn yielded poorer air quality.

In the end, people keep coming here.

By some miracle, jet lag didn’t catch up with me upon our reentry into our motherland. I still don’t understand how I did it. I slept in the connecting airport after our Japan flight. I also slept on our flight to Arizona. We got to our hotel late and we all slept in the next day. Every day after that, during our first week back, I was perfectly fine. I guess I just got lucky.

A few days later and in spite of my dumb luck with jetlag, my wife had stated that she would like to start going to the gym again. As any good husband knows, a statement like that is encoded. When she says she, she means WE. As in, “we should start going to the gym again”.

I am a good husband. I also don’t mind exercise and I love my wife.

On one such occasion, we had come back to our hotel room from the gym. After we had checked in with the kids and got them sorted, I go to take my shoes off. As I take my left shoe off, I feel something off about the inside of the shoe.

“Probably the liner getting worn out”, I thought. So I stick my hand in there to straighten it out and my stumpy little hand comes back with a fistful of dead lizard.

Yes, I screamed. It was a manly scream, like “GAH! WHAT THE FUCK?”. 

The lizard was in my shoe the entire time that my wife and I were at the gym. It was a cardio heavy day. That is to say, my feet were moving quite a bit that day.  I jogged, I rowed, I used a stair master. The lizard never stood a chance.

Our desert year was off to a great start.

To date, my wife and I are regular gym-goers. On top of that, I check my shoes for squatters regularly. There hasn’t been a lizard in my shoe or seen by my own eyes, since this fateful day.