Preserving Beauty and Increasing Safety

Nov 14, 2023 | Communities, DeFuniak Springs, Freeport, Walton & Beyond

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Scenic Walton seeks to enhance North Walton’s aesthetic 

By Wendy O. Dixon

Formed in 2008, Scenic Walton works with community and elected officials to preserve the natural beauty of Walton County, while also increasing pedestrian and cyclist safety.

Leigh Moore, executive director of Scenic Walton and vice chair of Scenic America’s Board of Directors, has a passion for scenic conservation. She started as a part-time executive director for the Scenic Corridor Foundation, which later became Scenic Walton, for which she is now full-time executive director. 

“I’m really passionate about what we do,” Leigh says. “We’re the only ones who do it. There’s not a lot of advocacy being done for scenic beauty.”  

The priority of Scenic Walton is project work. “Our focus in the early days was just Highway 98 and Highway 331 south of the bay. In 2018 and 2019, we started to get more good things done, and we began getting requests to do projects outside that corridor. We decided to expand our geographical reach to the entire county and change our name to Scenic Walton. It was a big expansion for us.” 

Since then, Leigh and her team started adding people from Central and North Walton to their board of directors and looking north of the bay to do project work. “We are about maintaining and improving the visual aesthetic and natural beauty of Walton, as well as the safety of the county. We do that in several ways — by undergrounding utilities, adding cyclist and pedestrian paths, and landscaping public places.” Scenic Walton’s current focus is landscaping along primary roadways in Walton County. They also promote and educate people about the benefits of good development standards and plan to partner with the Walton County Tourist Development Council on their Keep Walton County Beautiful affiliation.

“A lot of what we do also has a safety impact,” Leigh adds. “Good landscaping reduces driving speed and related traffic problems, and underground utilities have a multitude of benefits. Many of these important issues are overlooked. We work with state and local governments, which have so many priorities, that many times the types of projects we work on do tend to fall down the priority list. But we feel like they are important, so any time we can bring resources to the table to help get things done we will.” 

Scenic Walton has a program called Walton Safe and Beautiful, in which it raises money to hire roadway landscape designers. “It helps the county compete for state dollars and private funding grants if locals have a design for a project in place. We can identify high-priority landscaping projects that are having trouble getting funds and donate a design to the county or to the municipality if the project falls within city boundaries. We are currently working on three project designs north of the bay. One in Paxton is almost complete, and the others in Freeport and DeFuniak Springs are in process.” The organization is also spearheading and partnering with Walton County Emergency Management on an initiative to create a plan for undergrounding utilities countywide where it makes sense to do so. Leigh believes this will be a gamechanger for the entire county. 

One of the concerns Leigh hears from people who live north of the bay is that the organization will attempt to make them look like South Walton, taking away from the unique characteristics of this area. “We’re not coming in to try to change it,” Leigh says. “We want to enhance what is already there. For example, we are designing a landscaping project along a 2.5-mile stretch of road from the Highway 331 gateway to Paxton going southward all the way through the city. It is a more rural design with wildflowers, much different than South Walton. If we landscape Downtown DeFuniak Springs, it needs to look like Downtown DeFuniak Springs, not Seaside or another community in South Walton.” 

Early in the Highway 98 corridor initiative, Leigh recalls that Scenic Walton got a lot of push back from people not trusting that the development guidelines and projects were meant to enhance the community and benefit local businesses. “Many of those same people today say they understand,” Leigh says. “They saw that they were able to attract a better customer base because of the improved aesthetic. Most people do support good landscaping and underground utilities.” 

To learn more about Scenic Walton, visit

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