VERNON - The Northwest Florida Water Management District celebrated Wednesday the re-opening of Cotton Landing, a popular recreation site just northeast of Vernon along Holmes Creek in Washington County.

Cotton Landing had been closed since January as workers restored and stabilized 125 feet of shoreline to help reduce erosion as well as provide stormwater treatment. Boardwalks and access points were also installed to prevent future impacts on water quality and habitat while also improving public access and public parking.

Governor Rick Scott, the Florida Legislature, and the Department of Environmental Protection provided $190,000 for the Cotton Landing project as part of the governor's springs restoration funding. The District provided an additional $125,000 to complete the $315,000 project.

"Holmes Creek is an extremely popular destination for paddlers, anglers, and nature enthusiasts," said Ted Everett, a member of the Governing Board for the Northwest Florida Water Management District. "So it was important for the District to not only take action to protect the springs along Holmes Creek but to do the work in a way that enhances the recreational opportunities for so many people who enjoy the creek. We appreciate the support from Governor Scott, the Florida Legislature, and DEP in making this restoration project a success."

Holmes Creek is home to no fewer than 57 springs, including several second magnitude springs. The majority of flow into the creek during moderate to low flow periods originates from springs and karst features along the banks of the creek.

"Seeing the 'before' and 'after' photos of the work done at Cotton Landing shows just how important it is for us to do our part to preserve Holmes Creek and its springs," said State Senator George Gainer, who represents Washington and Holmes counties. "Holmes Creek is a special place for so many people and this restoration work will make sure it remains a special place for years to come."

Cotton Landing re-opened temporarily for recreation activities during the Fourth of July weekend and the final work on the restoration project was completed two weeks ago.

"This project will protect and preserve the springs along Holmes Creek and will ensure that future generations will be able to enjoy this precious natural resource for years to come," said Representative Brad Drake, who represents Washington and Holmes counties. "The springs in northwest Florida are not just a source of great pride for our residents but they play a tremendous role in our economy and our way of life."