Sometime on Friday, July 20, 2018, an unknown person used the rogue PKA Facebook page to state that the Perdido Key Association has endorsed Alan McMillan for the Republican nomination for District 2 Commissioner. This is not the case. The Perdido Key Association is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and is prohibited from endorsing candidates for political office.
President, Perdido Key Association
As hoped for, World Oceans Day 2018 at Perdido Key State Park on June 8, 2018 turned out to be a terrific family affair. The several hundred people attending were able to visit the Discovery Depot touch tank and ocean exhibits provided by the Navarre Beach Marine Science Station, hear presenters and see exhibits on sea turtle conservation, lionfish and diamondback terrapin awareness, and shore and migrating bird concerns. In keeping with the 2018 World Oceans Day emphasis, additional displays and presentations focused on preventing and mitigating plastic pollution of the oceans and other threats to ocean health – such as acidification, eutrophication, and oil spills. Visitors were also able to enjoy the sand sculptures of The Paradise Sandman (David Robertson), the colorful kites flown by the Emerald Coast Kite Flyers, and a visit by Monty the screech owl from the Wildlife Sanctuary of Northwest Florida. With clear and balmy weather on the beach, all seemed to enjoy the entertaining and educational event.
As coordinated worldwide by The Ocean Project, “World Oceans Day is a global day of ocean celebration and collaboration for a better future.” Co-sponsors of the Perdido Key State Park event were the Perdido Key Association, the Friends of Pensacola State Parks, Florida State Parks, and Visit Pensacola – with additional support provided by the Perdido Key Chamber of Commerce, Mullet Wrapper, Audubon Society and Sea Grant personnel, Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, Perdido Key Souvenirs & More, Tina Morrison (promoter) and the Department of Biology at the University of West Florida.
Contractors have completed planting sea oats and other native vegetation to the 6 miles of Perdido Key beach dunes from the Alabama border to the eastern edge of the Perdido Key Area of the Gulf islands National Seashore. The over 400,000 plants added to the dunes should enhance coastal resiliency and improve the ability of the beaches to resist storm damage. The project was coordinated by Escambia County officials and paid for through the National Resource Damage Assessment (a post-Deepwater Horizon oil spill funding source). The project was able to move forward because of participation from 90% of Perdido Key Gulf-front property owners. As always and particularly with the new plantings, we should stay off the dunes and “leave no trace” on the beach.
Jo Ann Slaydon has stepped down from her leadership position with the Perdido Key Chamber of Commerce; Dana Pagador, the former Assistant Director, has been named the new President of the Chamber. Ms. Slaydon will remain active in the Chamber as a director through her consulting firm Slaydon Consultants. PKA became of member of the Perdido Key Chamber of Commerce in 2017 and coordinated a number of activities with the Chamber during Ms. Slayton’s tenure. We have also worked closely with Ms. Pagador and look forward to a continued and productive relationship with the Chamber.
After a long delay, ferry service has begun on Pensacola Bay. Administered by the National Park Service in partnership with the City of Pensacola and Escambia County, the two 149 passenger ferries are now shuttling passengers from downtown Pensacola to Pensacola Beach and Ft. Pickens. Named the Turtle Runner and Pelican Perch, the ferries are operated by Gulf Coast Maritime Services, Inc. and travel in opposite directions for the convenience of passengers. They will operate daily from May 14 until August 16 and weekends-only from March 15 to May 14 and August 16 to October 31; service will be from 8:30 AM until 10:00 PM. Ferry service dates, prices, and other information are available at Pensacola News Journal June 26, 2018 article “Pensacola Ferry Schedule and Prices: What you Need to Know” by Maria Gabriel Mathews at pnj.com and from the City of Pensacola at cityofpensacola.com. (Photo: NPS/Rainey)
Hurricane Season officially begins on June 1, but the threat from Subtropical Storm Alberto heralded an early beginning. All of us on or near the Gulf Coast are well advised to take stock of preparations for these dangerous storms. Resources from Escambia County include the web pages "Tropical Storms and Hurricanes” with links to other resources and the “Know Your Zone” site at myescambia.com. Another local resource is the May 27, 2018 “2018 Hurricane Guide” published by the Pensacola News Journal. John Dosh - the Emergency Management Manager of Escambia County – has provided other comments on hurricane season actions. For example, if ordered to evacuate, he suggested that people stay as close to home as it is safe to do so to avoid highway congestion, but noting that Escambia County's emergency shelters are public schools and provide very little in the way of comfort – serving as "lifeboats" not "love-boats." He also pointed out that storm surge is unique to each storm and can vary greatly with a storm’s track.
Mr. Dosh pointed out that emergency management procedures for Escambia County do not use the terms voluntary or mandatory evacuation. When an evacuation order is issued, however, the expectation is that people will leave that zone. During the landfall of Hurricane Nate in 2017, Evacuation Zone A – which included Perdido Key – was placed under an evacuation order but many chose not to leave the Key. We were fortunate the hurricane did not have a great impact on people and property.
The May 24, 2018 FDOT presentation at the Perdido Key Community Center on progress toward the Perdido Key Shared-Use Path (known earlier as “Multi-Use Path) indicated that design and engineering work was still in progress and that completion of the path was still a number of years away. The western portion of about two miles from the Alabama border to Perdido Key State Park has FDOT funding funds while another mile of the path can be constructed with the US Treasury approved Escambia County request for $960,000 of RESTORE (BP penalty) funding. Funds for the remainder of the path may have to come from other sources.
Negotiations between Escambia County and the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) could result in the county assuming responsibility for Perdido Key drive while FDOT would take over a section of Beulah Road. According to the Pensacola News Journal May 21, 2018 article “Escambia County in talks with state to swap control of Perdido Key Drive with Beulah Road” by Jim Little: “The purpose of the swap would be to allow for quicker construction of a new interchange with Beulah Road and Interstate 10, and allow the county to better implement the Perdido Key Master Plan.” District 2 Commissioner Doug Underhill reportedly said he would support the idea as long as it “doesn’t jeopardize state funding for the Perdido Key bike path or would slow down repairs to the road following hurricanes.” To access the article, go to pnj.com.
On May 5, 2018, a large audience was privileged to attend the yearly Remembrance Ceremony honoring Korean War hero Rosamond Johnson. The event was held under wonderful weather at the beautiful location that bears his name, Johnson Beach at the Perdido Key Area of the Gulf Island’s National Seashore. Featured speaker Superintendent Dan Brown of the National Seashore discussed Rosamond Johnson, the background of Johnson Beach, and a number of additional topics. Other speakers, including members of Rosamond Johnson’s family, highlighted the ceremony.
The May 8, 2018 Pensacola News Journal article “Is Perdido Key running out of public beachfront? One commissioner says yes and suggests remedy” by Melissa Nelson Gabriel discussed Commissioner Doug Underhill’s work with Escambia County planners on the possibility of using BP restitution money to purchase beach front property to provide additional public beach access. The article noted that Perdido Key seemed to be “getting busier all the time” and the current real estate market was strong – suggesting a timely purchase was essential. Underhill said “We will use the BP money to procure forever beach access for the people of Escambia County." Commissioner Jeff Bergosh said he supported more public access to Perdido Key beaches: "It is needed. Unless you own a condo out there, a lot of the beach is off limits, it is private property." For more on the issue, go to pnj.com.
West Florida Hospital’s free-standing emergency facility at Rt. 98 and Blue Angel Parkway had its grand opening on April 17, 2018. Called the Perdido Bay ER, the 24-hour facility has 11 beds, a dedicated trauma room, diagnostic imaging equipment and laboratory capabilities. For more on the facility, go to westfloridahospital.com.
Science Hour at the Escambia County Central Office Complex on June 13, 2018 was titled “Landscaping in Hurricane Alley” and presented by Carrie Stevenson, the Coastal Sustainability Agent for University of Florida IFAS/Escambia County Extension. Ms. Stevenson provided guidance on a variety of issues, such as the trees most likely to survive strong tropical storms, how to manage current trees to minimize damage during a storm, and what to do following a storm if trees have been damaged. Live oak trees, for example, are much more survivable in high winds than laurel oaks and pine trees. Other suggestions were that smaller trees should be planted in groups to increase their chances of making it through a storm and that roots should be dugout from cut-down trees to ensure sinkholes do not form as the trees decay. More information on issues such as these can be found in the UF/IFAS article “Trees That Can Withstand Hurricanes” at gardeningsolutions.ifas.ufl.edu. (Photo: Southern Pride Tree Farm)
Red Snapper Seasons –The Florida red snapper season for 2018 will be from June 11 until July 21 in both Gulf State and Federal waters. Go to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission website for more information. The Alabama season for both charter and private fishing is scheduled to start on June 1, 2018. For Alabama dates and requirements, see the Outdoor Alabama Weekly article “Red Snapper Recreational Seasons Open June 1” by David Rainer at outdooralabama.com.
Beach Vitex on Perdido Key – Beach Vitex is an invasive species that can crowd out native plants. It has been a particular concern in beach areas of the Carolinas and is now working its way into Florida. For the first time, as far as PKA is aware, it has been found on Perdido Key. The plant provides ground cover and has woody runners and purple flowers. If detected, please contact the Escambia County Sea Grant Representative Rick O’Connor at [email protected] for assistance in identification and removal. See the March 2, 2017 University of Florida IFAS Extension article “Trying to Stay Ahead of Beach Vitex” by Rick O’Connor for more information.
On February 1, 2018, the Escambia County Board of County Commissioners approved District 2 Commissioner Doug Underhill’s request to set aside funds for the “Pensacola Pass Inlet Management Plan.” The plan could lead to a policy where the sand dredged from the Pensacola Harbor channel – which is required periodically to keep the channel navigable for large ships – would be dumped on the beaches of the Perdido Key Area of the Gulf Islands National Seashore instead of offshore as is the current practice. With the general westerly migration of sand in the region, Perdido Key beaches west of the National Seashore would also benefit from the project.
With funding for a study assigned (more is needed from the state), putting substance on the proposal will begin with meetings of various stake holders, such as the National Seashore, Navy Installations Command, Army Corps of Engineers, and the Port of Pensacola – PKA may also be invited to participate. When implemented, Perdido Key beaches will not quickly leave the critically eroded status so concerns for further erosion and from destructive storms will remain, but hopefully in the coming year’s progress will be made.
In keeping with its education purpose, the Perdido Key Association contributed to an upgrade of the interpretive wayside panels near the Perdido Key Discovery Trail at the Perdido Key Area of the Gulf Islands National Seashore (Johnson Beach). PKA Director Joe Stone worked closely with Gulf Island National Seashore Visual Information Specialist Brent Everett in helping to bring the project to fruition. The December 8, 2017 “Gulf Islands News” release stated (in part):
Several interpretive wayside panels were recently upgraded and installed at the national seashore’s Perdido Key Area thanks to the Perdido Key Association (PKA). The wayside panels and some associated hardware had weathered badly since it was first installed. The PKA approached the National Park Service earlier this year to provide financial support for the upgrade. ‘We are grateful to the Perdido Key Association for their generous donation in support of the national seashore,” said Superintendent Dan Brown. “Interpretive wayside panels are a critical tool of the National Park Service to share the important stories of the national seashore.” At Perdido Key these waysides interpret the natural beauty and dynamic wildlife of the area, provide trail guidance and safety reminders, and tell the story of important figures like Rosamond Johnson.
The September 16 cleanup of Perdido Key beaches and river front was a great success! With good weather helping out, about 50 volunteers spent their Saturday mornings picking up cigarette butts, plastic bags, paper cups, and other material – some hard to identify – that littered our beautiful waterfront. The beaches were not in too bad a shape, but the grooming they received will be appreciated by all who enjoy these wonderful assets. In addition, two kayaks and a jon boat gathered trash from the marshy Old River side of Perdido Key. The cleanup was cosponsored by the Perdido Key Association, the Friends of Pensacola State Parks, and Florida State Park rangers from Big Lagoon/Perdido Key State Park. The quantity and type of trash collected will be reported to the Ocean Conservancy, the coordinating body for this international event, and will become part of the International Coastal Cleanup Day annual report. Thanks to all who helped make the cleanup a noteworthy environmental event for Perdido Key.
The Perdido Key Association held its 2018 Annual Membership Meeting on Saturday, February 24, 2018 at the Eden Condominium on Perdido Key. Featured speaker Steve Hayes, President of “Visit Pensacola,” discussed the many tourist marketing initiatives made by his organization and noted that successful tourism promotion required evaluating and effectively using data on visitor preferences and activities. He indicated that Perdido Key should strive for a high quality visitor experience and not necessarily for increasing the number of tourists. With new air routes and greater recognition of the area’s many attractions, the future of tourism in the Pensacola region seemed bright.
District 2 Commissioner Doug Underhill followed and addressed several issues affecting Perdido Key, such as the Helipad – back in operation; Perdido Key Multi-Use Path – design work in progress and construction to begin in the months ahead; Pensacola Pass Inlet Management Plan – study approved by the Board of County Commissioners that should lead to a process where sand dredged from Pensacola Pass would be deposited on the Perdido Key Area of the Gulf Islands National Seashore and be available for migration to the rest of Perdido Key; Perdido Key Dune Restoration Project – sea oat and other plantings should begin in a few weeks; and, underground utilities on Perdido Key – likely only through MSBU (Municipal Service Benefit Unit) funding.
The speakers’ presentations and responses to questions were much appreciated by the audience. PKA president Charles Krupnick then reported on the 2017 PKA initiatives, including International Coastal Cleanup Day and World Oceans Day events at Perdido Key State Park and the Association’s funding of upgrade to three “interpretive wayside panels” at the Perdido Key Area of the Gulf Islands National Seashore. An unapproved version of the meeting minutes is posted on the Archive page of this website.