[There are many subtle design elements about Rosemary Beach, FL that make it a distinctive and unique gulf front community. In the mid 1990’s as it was being planned, a great deal of care and effort was made by the development and landscape design teams to feature the native plants and trees that thrive in the area and to create inviting open spaces, parks and greens for everyone to enjoy. With this week’s post, we’ve invited one of Rosemary Beach’s original landscape designers, Stephen Poulakos, to share insights on the parks and green spaces he designed.]
Rosemary Beach, Florida is a beach town built for the ages. It holds a dear and special place in my heart and is where my infatuation with New Urbanism began. Having grown up in suburban Atlanta, our family began vacationing in Northwest Florida in the early 1980’s when it was still a “wild and undiscovered” area. First at Navarre Beach, then in the mid 1980’s we migrated eastward for vacations in old Seagrove Beach. Just a short bike ride or drive west was a young and growing Seaside, FL. I had never seen anything like it and I was hooked immediately.
Fast forward several years...after completing a Bachelor of Landscape Architecture from Auburn University, I returned to Atlanta and began my landscape design career. Only three years into it, I learned that a “new” beach town called Rosemary Beach was being established. Determined to become part of it, I studied the native flora and fauna of Northwest Florida and was helped by my great friend and mentor Randy Harelson. Randy is the famed Northwest Florida horticulturalist, author, and proprietor of the now wonderful memory, The Gourd Garden & Curiosity Shop. Soon after meeting Randy, I was invited to be part of the Rosemary Beach’s early development team where we guided and nurtured the early creation of the new town along the gulf. I had the great pleasure of working alongside an incredible team including Town Founder Patrick Bienvenue, Town Architect Richard Gibbs and Larry Davis, who started Rosemary Beach Realty.
While Rosemary Beach’s official landscape architect was Keith LeBlanc, he was gracious in allowing me the opportunity to design nearly twelve parks and landscapes. Some of my favorite ones to create were the three mid-block parks known as Kingsbridge Park, East Kingston Park and West Kingston Park. In addition, we also created Fountain Park and Butterfly Park both of which were also great fun to do.
Take a Tour of Rosemary's Stunning Parks
While many of the homes on the north-side of Scenic Highway 30A didn’t have water views, they were provided a multitude of intimate parks to enjoy. Most of the mid-block pocket parks built in Rosemary were small in size, approximately 28’ wide by 85’ deep and accessed with a continuous raised boardwalk referred to as the “Krier Walk”. These boardwalks have become a hallmark of Rosemary Beach’s innovative town plan and were named for the internationally known town planner (Leon Krier). The “north side” parks are fronted by ten homes and designed with front porches facing the parks. Many of the homes also have upper balconies overlooking the parks below.
Although compact in size, the parks were designed and divided into thirds. One end featured a fountain, one a passive seating area, and in the center, a small gathering lawn. In most instances, eight native sand live oaks were planted to encircle the park and to offer a shady canopy. Many of these same park concepts were borrowed from our favorite historic American places as well as the many new urbanism inspired towns and villages that have sprung up across America.
Butterfly Park on W. Kingston Road was a wonderfully unique park in its own right. While it did not include a fountain, it did feature two whimsical vine-arbors designed to mimic the false eyes seen on many a butterfly wings. Colorful perennials planted in raised planters are juxtaposed with many northwest Florida native plants to attract and nourish migrating butterflies. The park design was collaboration between garden designer Randy Harelson, myself, and entomologist Akers Pence and is interesting to visit in any season of the year.
Whether it’s one of the wonderfully peaceful pocket parks, the iconic Butterfly Park or Fountain Park, each is a treasure to stumble upon. They are also written about by famed author and photographer Richard Sexton in his book, Rosemary Beach.
While I left Northwest Florida more than twelve years ago, the new urbanism towns of Seaside, Rosemary Beach, Alys Beach continue to inspire me. Today, I live out in the great rugged Pacific Northwest where I have joined forces with fellow new urbanist, Laurance Qamar and Town Founders Casey & Laura Roloff to create Seabrook, Washington, the first modern day “new” beach town in the Pacific NW. Like in Rosemary Beach, I’ve designed many parks and civic spaces in Seabrook that create delightful spots for visitors to enjoy. I hope you’ll wander thru all of these places on your next visit. Seabrook is only a three hour drive from Seattle, WA and Portland, Oregon. We look forward to seeing you on both coasts!
With Warmest Regards,
Stephen G. Poulakos
Seabrook Town Urbanist & Garden Designer
South Walton County is full of incredible communities. If you'd like to learn more about making a home in Rosemary Beach or a nearby 30A neighborhood, please contact Davis Properties online or call 850-231-2025 to connect with a qualified local real estate professional.