The late afternoon air was quiet in the Howard Creek Lower Landing, save for the excited conversation of the new park’s visitors.
A small tent was set up on the park’s lawn to host a gaggle of guests, who gathered to take in the area’s natural beauty, snack on some light refreshments and celebrate the guest of honor – Charlie Norton – to whom the park was dedicated on Thursday.
“I just am so blessed to have a wonderful family, and I didn’t think I had about four or five good friends,” he laughed, looking out at the dozens gathered.
“It’s been so good to see all of you people here, and the main thing is, when you name something after somebody, they usually have died. So it’s such a real honor to be able to hear some of the nice things being said.”
Norton was selected as the park’s namesake by a unanimous vote of the Gulf County commissioners, all of whom were in attendance at the event.
The property, once known as Coe’s Landing, was acquired by the county from the Norton and Rish families in 2020, after finalizing a deal to have it set up for public use.
“The county bought this with BP money,” said County Administrator Michael Hammond. “Probably the best thing long term we could have ever done with that BP restore money was get 115 acres that will be protected for the public to have and use for forever.”
Two of Norton’s three sons, Jim Norton and Joe Norton, unveiled the park’s new sign, each taking hold of one side of the sheet that had been covering it.
After the speeches, guests lingered on the lawn to catch up and continue the celebration.