The Blackwater River Foundation’s first commitment is to the community.  Since 2005, the Foundation has achieved great things through its community programs. Please read below for details of our notable accomplishments.

Bagdad Waterfronts Florida Partnership

Realizing Bagdad was on the brink of an economic reawakening, a community planning initiative began in 2005 when the Blackwater River Foundation and Santa Rosa County applied for and was awarded a Waterfronts Florida Partnership Program designation from the State of Florida’s Department of Community Affairs.  

Upon designation and throughout the first two years of designation, the Blackwater River Foundation and Santa Rosa County created a citizen steering committee and subcommittees to tackle the priority areas of the Waterfronts Florida Partnership Program (public access to the waterfront, environmental and cultural protection, economic development, and hazard mitigation).  Community visioning sessions were held for Bagdad Village and the Bagdad Mill Site Park in the summer of 2006 with the participation of Bagdad residents and property owners.

Through the visioning process, community consensus led Santa Rosa County to update and strengthen Bagdad’s historic district land development regulations, an issue that had remained contentious for several years.  The Partnership Program proved instrumental in facilitating the process leading up to the regulation updates.  A conservation overlay district was created in Bagdad based on the results of the visioning, thereby clarifying and strengthening design guidelines.  The Waterfronts Florida Partnership Program has led the way in allowing the community to understand and appreciate the importance of citizen-based community planning.

Upon “graduation” from the statewide program in 2007, the Partnership committee incorporated a separate nonprofit organization with the mission to further implement the community’s vision. Specifically, this volunteer-driven organization ensures the community’s interests are being met and that all processes are participatory and inclusive. The visioning efforts of Bagdad are now used as examples throughout Florida.

The Program is now independent and furthering the vision goals of the community. For updates, visit the Partnership’s website at  

Mount Bethel Baptist Church Steeple Reconstruction

In 2008, the Foundation provided financial and organizational assistance to Mount Bethel Baptist Church in order to obtain architectural renderings for the reconstruction of a steeple that was removed in the 1970s from its circa-1910 church building in Bagdad.   The building is empty and unused at this time, but with the architectural renderings of the church, the Foundation hopes to apply for historic preservation grants to rebuild the steeple to resemble its historical appearance and provide the church an opportunity to open the building for public use.

Pictured above is the conceptual rendering of the church.

Ollinger & Bruce Shipyard Historical Park

The Blackwater River Foundation was instrumental in the establishment of the Ollinger & Bruce Shipyard Historical Park in Bagdad, Fla.  The Foundation began conversation with the Northwest Florida Water Management District in 2005 about creating a neighborhood park at an overgrown and vacant one-acre waterfront lot on the Blackwater River, adjacent to the village’s busiest boat landing.  In 2007, the Foundation hosted through the Bagdad Waterfronts Florida Partnership and the Bagdad Village Urban Forestry Program a community cleanup for the property in participation with the Great American Cleanup.  The clearing was completed in May 2007 by volunteers from Clearwire Wireless Corp. and Help Thy Neighbors Volunteer Center.  In 2008, the Foundation provided funding for native tree plantings at the park.

Located on Northwest Florida Water Management District property, the park is the site of a former shipyard and freight wharf. The site boasts a nature trail along the Blackwater River with a pavilion and picnic area. The project took one year to complete because of invasive plant species eradication. The park will eventually connect with the Bagdad Mill Site Park.


  Pictured above are volunteers clearing the park and of the park’s current picnic area.

The Shipyard Trail Historical Park was approved and funded by the Northwest Florida Water Management District, with partial funding and support from the Blackwater River Foundation, Santa Rosa County, and through volunteers from Clearwire Wireless Corp. through the Help Thy Neighbors Volunteer Center (RSVP).  The park is maintained by volunteer support and the Northwest Florida Water Management District.

Santa Rosa Adopt-A-Spot Program

The Blackwater River Foundation is doing its part in keeping Santa Rosa County beautiful by partnering with the Santa Rosa Adopt-A-Spot Program.  The Foundation’s adopted area is along Henry Street in Milton between the train tracks and Higgins Bayou.  This roadway is a main connection between the city of Milton and Interstate 10.

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