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Before Barbecue: How Flagler County Saved Bing’s From Development

| December 20, 2018

The canopy at Bing's Landing today. Captain's BBQ is to the left. (c FlaglerLive)

The canopy at Bing’s Landing today. Captain’s BBQ is to the left. (c FlaglerLive)

Bing’s Landing in the Hammock, before the current controversy over Captain’s BBQ’s proposed expansion in the public park, could have been sold off to developers in the late 1980s. It wasn’t, thanks to one woman’s vision. Her daughter tells the story.

By Charlotte Tomey

Bing’s Fish Camp had two motel buildings, a mobile home, bath house, pavilion, laundry house, motel office, bait house, snack bar and two boat docks. Some of the shrimp boats would come in, take on clean water, dump their tanks, moor overnight. The shrimpers would sell their bait to Bing’s bait house for reduced cost and Bing’s would in turn moor them overnight for a fair price.

Most of what existed from the fish camp is now gone. There are still enough memories that my two sons, now 45 and 43, bring their families here whenever they come to visit me. They tell of days when they would come to Grandma’s for a two-week summer visit. They tell how they would help in the bait house, get in some fishing and tour some of the bigger boats and shrimp boats that would stop in to take on fresh supplies. The boys would tell me when they came home that they just couldn’t figure out how some of those shrimp boats even floated.

I now see much of my family history and the history of many others in this area being sold off to private enterprise. The history is worth recalling as we now witness the fate of Bing’s Landing hanging in the balance, between a rich history of preservation and a more recent history of commercializing the park.

I didn’t live in the Hammock at the time all of this was happening, but I heard every word. Geraldine Bing passed away sometime in 1979. That is when my step-father, Charles Yant, and a business partner, John Hesseldenz, bought Bing’s Towncienda Motel and Fish Camp, later to be known as Bing’s Fish Camp and Resort. Hesseldenz was a silent partner, so he never actually worked at the campground. My mom, Dolores Yant, and Charlie, worked and lived here full time. When they first moved here, the address was Rt. 1, Box 134, St. Augustine. A few years later their address became Marineland, then Hammock, and eventually Palm Coast: They lived in four towns but never moved once.

At first, they lived in the motel office, overseeing everyday operations and being available to rent rooms to weary travelers. They later moved into a mobile home, still on Bing’s property, and had the old motel demolished.

My folks continued as caretakers of the land for a little more than 10 years until they decided to retire. So as the business partners Charlie and John discussed selling to developers, my mother had a different idea. Selling to developers would divide the land into lots to be built on. The view of the Intracoastal Waterway could possibly be blocked. The boat ramp could be eliminated. Local residents would surely lose a gem that truly helped define the hammock community.

As Charlie and John saw developers’ dollar signs circling the property, Mom’s vision was green of a different kind. So Mom approached Flagler County government concerning the purchase of Bing’s. Negotiations followed. The rest is history. Flagler county was able to make the $1 million purchase using Environmentally Sensitive Lands dollars approved by voters through a special property tax levy. Sure Mom, Charlie and John could have made a lot more money selling off parcels to builders. But Mom just wouldn’t hear of it.

So, when Mom got her wish, she was thrilled. When she and I would talk she would tell me: “Better plan a trip soon, you’re just not going to believe how beautiful Bing’s is”.

Of course, I would plan a trip to Florida and help Mom watch the progress. Mom was so happy that she didn’t give in to greed. My mother left this world feeling that she made a difference in the Hammock.

Now a bait house & snack bar of days gone by have given way to Captain’s BBQ. The building has been renovated and built up, but not to the point of blocking the public’s view of the river and beautiful surrounding scenery of this historic land. I’m certain the archeological dig that started in the center of this area has just scratched the surface of what is yet to be found.

We must realize that moving Captain’s and enlarging the restaurant’s capacity also means a much larger drain field and a bigger parking area. All this obliterates a huge chunk of the middle–the heart–of this beautiful park.

To those involved in this deal: Please think this idea through. There are other sites available that would enable the restaurant’s plans without sacrificing any part of this land that we all thought was “our park.” It’s time the owners of Captain’s find a new location. They may not get the sweetheart deal of a lease that they have been enjoying from the county. But, especially when preservation of public land is in the balance, that’s the cost of doing business.

Charlotte Tomey is a Hammock resident.

11 Responses for “Before Barbecue: How Flagler County Saved Bing’s From Development”

  1. Laura Shaver says:

    Common sense and caring about beauty. Love it when the community wins! Thanks to your Mom for thinking of our future!

  2. Agkistrodon says:

    AWESOME. Every one of those picnic tables has a grill, very easy to grill your OWN food and have a family outing a the same time. There are PLENTY of good places to build an bigger or another BBQ joint, this park is NOT one of them. Try again you’ll get the same result if not a Larger turnout.

  3. palmcoaster says:

    Thank you Charlote Tomey for telling us how your Mom saved Bings Landing and thank you Pierre of Flagler Live for publishing it! How could we ever envision our future without glancing back to our history? So sad that the residents taxpayers have to take the government administrators to court to defend what is ours because the majority of the one’s we elected to represent us don’t do it! Please current FCBOCC vote your Honorable Chair Mr. O’Brien’s way and against this business expansion! Thank you Mr. O’Brien!

  4. rick says:

    Great article…. Gratifying to see clear thinking people unite in the continued effort to defeat this outrageous and ridiculous attempt to exploit this beautiful historic spot on the Intracoastal.

  5. Chris Romaine says:

    We are indebted to your mom and the many others who have fought and quietly sacrificed to preserve the natural beauty of our community. It only now occurs to me that Bings is the only place in Flagler County where I can see the ICW from A-1A. Your story honors your mother and her legacy. Thank you Ms. Charlotte!

  6. Jay Rhame says:

    Thank you Ms, Tomey for writing this piece. I still can’t believe the County Administration and Commission ever thought this expansion was a good idea. Captain’s BBQ was able to build a successful business with the help of the County by way of a favorable lease and a prime location. Now they want to expand which is understandable. They should find property and build the restaurant they envision. Then the building can go back to being a snack bar and bait shop. As the county grows there will be a need for more parks, past commissions understood this.

  7. Will says:

    The County Administration’s efforts to commercialize public land purchased with the idea of setting it aside for preservation purposes, is not only counter to the vision expressed by the woman in this article, it is not, in my estimation, what the Commissioners visualized when they sought the money to purchase the property. Whether the restaurant is good or bad is not relevant. That is a beautiful piece of property that belongs to all the people of Flagler County. It should be kept for the purpose it was intended.

  8. Yellowstone says:

    No one has brought up the environmental issues a newer and bigger restaurant would affect. Examples are the sweet smells of BBQ that would 24/7 permeate the air. Experiences in Flagler Beach prove the fresh smell of french-fry cooking grease with each breath you take. Adding a bar and increased parking spaces lead to more traffic which means increases in potential accidents.
    I relish Captain’s. I was there the day they opened and return often – but am really taken back by this blatant and obtrusive encroachment of this very special place. My opinion is to Flagler County, “Do NOT do this. Do NOT allow this to happen. You will in time regret messing up centuries of local history simply to provide a few extra dollars to so few. This is one of Flagler’s most iconic sites that fewer and fewer in this small area of Florida”.
    Captain’s, I crave your product but I disdain your efforts to remove even a shovelful of that property!

  9. NortonSmitty says:

    Uhhh, Ma’am, I appreciate your Mothers sacrifice and dedication to the parks foundation. But your childrens beautiful memories were of a commercial enterprise. A motel, bait shop, boat ramp and snack bar as you said. It;s hard to imagine these days, but it used to be that business owners wouldn’t sacrifice the natural beauty of a place because it made a few more dollars to build out every square foot they could. Were it only that way today we probably wouldn’t be so wary of this new proposal.

  10. Chris S. says:

    I’m getting jaded in my old age, but $1,000,000 in the 1990’s wasn’t exactly chomp change.
    I’m sure the developers would not have at kind of money when other ocean side swamp land was still available.
    I have been there a few times and have not found the building in bad condition; just worn from traffic and the weather. There is no reason the building should not have been maintained better by the tenant.
    The place is Florida quaint; there is no table side delivery, no table cloths. A dive Barbeque place !
    There is a seafood restaurant in Georgia, off the beaten path, that has the entire parking lot covered in carpet remnants; no, not outdoor carpeting, regular indoor carpeting. great seafood and the owner takes a selfie with every customer; THAT’S Quaint.!

  11. Anonyous says:

    Sounds like your mom was a very beautiful person not putting money first but the beauty of the land. I was burned in a village that was similar to the village It’s A Woderful Life but was destroyed by greed and many cultures that came from central and South America so I camehete 15 years and see something similar going on. It’s all about money , always has been

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