PAXTON — A journey to Britton Hill, the highest natural point in Florida, moved one recent visitor to poetry.
“Get lost to get found, Florida’s highest little ground, cows & crickets the only sound, the silence now so loud, time to pavement pound,” an unknown author wrote Jan. 2 in the visitor’s log at Lakewood Park, which stands atop Britton Hill at the north end of Walton County.
Britton Hill, at 345 feet above sea level, is in the unincorporated Lakewood community, just northeast of Paxton and less than five miles south of the Alabama state line.
More:Video from Britton Hill
Florida’s highest point is designated by a monument and signs in the Walton County-owned Lakewood Park at 2756 N. County Road 285, as well as by directional signs, such as one at the CR 285-County Road 147 intersection.
From the small park’s clover-covered ground or its driveway, visitors can enjoy a pastoral view of green farmland dotted with dozens of black cattle.
Next year, county officials might begin promoting the obscure landmark of Britton Hill as an off-the-beaten-path gem.
Britton Hill/Lakewood Park is located 28 miles northeast of Crestview and 23 miles northwest of DeFuniak Springs. On an iPhone Maps app, the hill is robotically deemed a “mountain.”
A faded brochure posted on the park’s kiosk lists the high point of each state. According to the brochure provided by the Highpointers Club of Northfield, Minnesota, Britton Hill is the lowest state highpoint in the United States.
The second-lowest, at 448 feet above sea level, is Ebright Azimuth in Delaware. Alaska’s Denali (aka Mount McKinley), at 20,320 feet, is the highest highpoint.
“It was back in 1900 when William “Will” Henry Britton, a timber baron from North Carolina, bought the Lake Lumber Co. in Florala, Alabama,” states a Northwest Florida Daily News article from Nov. 18, 1991 that’s posted in the Lakewood Park kiosk. “Will moved the mill business three miles east. He named the site Lakewood. And in 1904, his brother, Thomas Jones Britton … and several other partners established the Britton Lumber Co.”
According to the article, the floors of New York’s Grand Central Station and Waldorf Astoria Hotel and the New Orleans’ Courthouse are made out of rift-sawn longleaf yellow pine from Lakewood.
The once-flourishing lumber town also is known as being the birthplace of William De Kova “Bill” White, a former Major League Baseball All-Star player and broadcaster who in 1989 became the first Black president of MLB’s National League.
In addition, Jacqueline Cochran, “the internationally acclaimed female aviator and founder of her own perfume company, whose labels include Nina Ricci and Pierre Cardin, spent part of her childhood in Lakewood,” according to the 1991 article.
In 1982, an Associated Press report called Britton Hill a “Midget Mountain” that attracted visitors with mountain-climbing gear. In 1984, the state Legislature approved a matching grant for Walton County to establish the park and monument to mark Florida’s highest point.
While Walton County’s “Lakewood” isn’t mentioned, the Florida map in Rand McNally’s 2021 Road Atlas does include “Britton Hill, 345 ft., Highest Pt. in Florida.”
Perhaps not surprisingly, “We do not receive many (or any) calls about Britton Hill at the South Walton Visitor Information Center,” said David Demarest, spokesman for the Walton County Tourist Development Council.
Britton Hill “hasn’t really been in our wheelhouse,” he said, because until March of this year there was only one special taxing district for the county’s tourist development tax (TDT) and it only included South Walton. That meant the tax was only collected in South Walton, and therefore may only be legally used to promote/improve South Walton, Demarest said.
Last year, however, voters in North Walton voted to enact a tourist development tax for the area north of Choctawhatchee Bay as well. Those collections began in March of this year, he said.
“After collections have been made for a year, those funds may then be spent to promote and improve those areas north of the bay, and I would expect that effort to include promotion for Britton Hill, leading to more calls for information,” Demarest said. “We’re currently ramping up our assets and knowledge base in preparation for that increased scope of promotion, and I expect that Britton Hill will be a great brag point for Walton County and an interesting PR pitch.”
More:Walton County TDC gets go-ahead for new visitor center
Demarest said it’s important to note that funds raised in each of the special taxing districts still must be used to promote those specific areas, even though both are within Walton County.
“Still, I’m sure there will be some opportunities for synergy,” he said.
More:COVID-19 vaccine tracker: See how many people in Florida have been vaccinated, by county, state
Besides taking a selfie at Florida’s highest point, visitors to Lakewood Park atop Britton Hill can enjoy two picnic pavilions, one of which has a grill. The park also has restrooms and features three hiking trails, each of which is less than a mile long.
“Maybe some day I will move to Florida?” a visitor from Pittsburgh recently wrote in the park’s visitor’s log. “I am retired and getting old. It is very cold in the winter in Pa. and don’t like it no more.”