The year 2017 turned out to a be a big one for tourism.

Not only did the two-cent bed tax set a new high, in excess of $1.25 million collected, but there was an increased interest in taking steps to adapt to life as a year-round tourist ecoomy.

Visitors had long enjoyed food and beverage on the sidewalks of downtown Apalachicola, but it technically was against the law. In the fall, the city commission put rules in place that made legal dining and drinking on the sidewalks in front of businesses, provided the restaurant or bar has secured the proper permits.

Then, this month, the Apalachicola commissioenrs decided to move forward with a 10-year lease for the Harbormaster House to an ecotourism company, Florida Geotourism Associates LLC, a four-year old ecotourism company owned by retired firefighter Mike Vroegop and his wife Robin.

The house, which sists at the commercial docks of Scipio Creek, had long been home to the St. Vincent National Wildlife Refuge offices, but they moved out a few years earlier and it had sat empty ever since.

In the shadow of what once was a bustling mecca for shrimpers and fishermen at the Mill Pond, the Harbormaster House is now set to be the headquarters of an eco-tourism concern.

Expect more to come, as Franklin County turns the corner on a fading seafood industry and fully embraces tourism.