Joan Matey
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Remember when we were forgotten?

By Joan Matey Guest Columnist

What’s the draw to come to the Panhandle coast of Florida? What would we like to have visitors say about our area? Franklin County has long had the moniker of the Forgotten Coast. 

We were remote, natural, under-developed… surrounding areas referred to this land as “the Real Florida” and we were proud to have more natural habitats than many of our unfortunate concrete-covered South Florida cities. We welcome the RV-driving snowbirds, the adventurous Loopers who sail here via mid-country rivers, and tourists and travelers from all over the globe. 

What do people like to see when they travel? It’s a no-brainer. Something unique, something they do not have at home. The wonderful and goofy World’s Smallest Police station is a perfect example of a one-of-a-kind local culture icon. Yes, it is silly and concrete and metal but so far it has caused no damage to wildlife, nor the environment and certainly conveys the Uniqueness of our area. 

All of the fabulous privately-owned shops in our beach counties have their own style and special offerings, often featuring unduplicated creations from local artists. The same certainly goes for restaurants, and a town with a really good mom-and-pop place with down-home recipes can draw locals and tourists to it for decades. Many remember Julia Mae’s in Carrabelle.

Here’s a unique idea… many travelers roam the country visiting all the lighthouses in the USA. We provide maps and mock passports so they can keep track of what they have seen. How about we locate every dollar store in a 200-mile radius of here, and tourists can visit them all and buy a plastic product from each one? Will that make folks want to visit our coast?

Plein Air artists flock here annually and I’d like to ask them what they like to paint here… certainly not the front of the same convenience store found by the thousands in cities across the nation. 

Do cities and their citizens have the right to determine the profile of their commercial zones? I know they do in many states, particularly in historical areas. I don’t know of many chain stores that I would call “quaint” or architecturally interesting… and carving out a special niche in your town to be specifically unique is smart planning for successful tourism. 

Hundreds of towns have established ordinances that provide peripheral zones where corporate-run stores can be built, preserving at least several blocks as their special area of interest to visitors. There are many successful models of using what’s called “form base codes,” rather than conventional zoning. I am proposing that we act now to look into these possibilities before we have nothing left but stores that are duplicated in every city in America. Why leave home and shop at the same stores only in a different city? Many folks feel these stores will offer them conveniences, but they continue to destroy free enterprises, and continue selling cheap, plastic, wildlife-choking goods Not made in the USA. Is that what Americans really want? The corporations want our money, but who do we really want to support? I’d rather help my neighbor who had the fortitude to start their own business.

An important aspect in development, that should be very apparent to the average citizen but is not, is the Environmental Impact of building Any-thing, especially along the shoreline. It is not simple. We often see containment or run-off ponds next to buildings because a large mass of bricks and concrete disrupts the natural flow of water and so engineering of the terrain is crucial to keep from flooding the neighboring buildings, and from contaminating our underground aquifers. These are all extremely important factors that must be addressed before any project, a single building or an entire residential development, is allowed to proceed. 

Take a stand for small businesses, and for our environment; please get involved and don’t just let things happen and complain later. We elect “officials” to represent us, and I admit I have not made enough contact with my representatives to let them know what I would want or not want to see happen in my city and county. It’s hard to keep up with it all, but we have so much to lose if we don’t.

Joan Matey, a Lanark Village resident for 23 years, is a professional artist and museum curator.

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Meet the Editor

David Adlerstein, The Apalachicola Times’ digital editor, started with the news outlet in January 2002 as a reporter.

Prior to then, David Adlerstein began as a newspaperman with a small Boston weekly, after graduating magna cum laude from Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. He later edited the weekly Bellville Times, and as business reporter for the daily Marion Star, both not far from his hometown of Columbus, Ohio.

In 1995, he moved to South Florida, and worked as a business reporter and editor of Medical Business newspaper. In Jan. 2002, he began with the Apalachicola Times, first as reporter and later as editor, and in Oct. 2020, also began editing the Port St. Joe Star.

Wendy Weitzel The Star Digital Editor


  1. Great article Joan. The citizens absolutely must get involved. That’s how the Putnal Dollar General Store was stopped. Wakulla county seems to be getting a Dollar General Store every 3 miles. Franklin county definitely does not need a Dollar General Store every 3 – 5 miles. I think the Family Dollar Store in downtown Carrabelle just cheapens the area. Not class at all. You sure don’t see any on St George Island.

  2. Nicely framed, Joan. I’m really sad about downtown Carrabelle but maybe we can learn from this mistake and see that it doesn’t get replicated in other spots.

  3. Joan is exactly right, and here’s the answer:
    Today’s City Commission should be working full-time on regulations for our area so that next time a dollar store wants to take advantage of our loosey-goosey harbor historic district regulations, they can’t.

  4. The DG is not the problem. It is the result of the problem. A lack of affordable housing and jobs has resulted in poverty. Us relocated tourists don’t want to pay taxes or elect officials who will fix these problems. So, DG is both serving the local community and making a profit. This is because the IGA and other local businesses are not meeting the needs of the community. We and the local government have reaped what we sowed. Let’s focus less on beachside parks, quaint shopping districts, aggressive drug enforcement, and turtles. Let’s try to fix local poverty.

  5. Well said Ms Joan!!! As a native of Carrabelle, I am sickened every time I drive by the ugly Dollar Tree downtown that sells nothing but JUNK!!! It is truly ruined the look of Carrabelle…….we tried to fight it to no avail!!
    We need to protect our town and county!!!!!

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