The Design and Engineering work on the Perdido Key Multi-Use Path along Perdido Key Drive (SR 292) - called “Shared-Use Path” by FDOT (the Florida Department of Transportation) - is moving forward and FDOT is ready for public input on its plans thus far. The project has two project managers, one for the West Segment (west of the Perdido Key State Park to the Alabama state line) and the other for the East Segment (the rest of the path to Gongora Drive).
The meeting will be held from 5:30 PM to 6:30 PM, Thursday, May 24, 2018, at the Perdido Key Community Center, 15500 Perdido Key Drive (i.e., the Visitors Center and Fire Station). It is an “open house” format so there will not be a formal presentation, but various stations explaining the project and ready to address your comments. This is a great opportunity to find out what is happening with the "Path” and to give your ideas to FDOT.
If you have any questions about the meeting, please contact the FDOT District Three Public Information Officer, Ian Satter, at 888 638-0250, ext. 1205 and [email protected].
See you there!
PKA is again co-sponsoring a World Oceans Day event on Perdido Key, along with the Friends of Pensacola State Parks and Florida State Parks. New this year is sponsorship by Visit Pensacola with a generous grant that has helped provide additional attractions for the event.
World Oceans Day is a great opportunity for an entertaining and educational trip to the Perdido Key beach! This year’s displays and attractions include:
■ Discovery Depot from the Navarre Beach Marine Science Station will feature hands-on exhibits, such as an “interactive touch tank, artificial reefs, lionfish, and marine debris,” accompanied by educators from the Santa Rosa County School District. This is an impressive activity and tailor-made to interest children in science and the environment. For more on Discovery Depot, go to navarresciencestation.org.■ Presenters and displays of ocean-related issues, including Rick O’Connor of Sea Grant on the lionfish threat, Mickey Quigley of Florida State Parks on sea turtles, the Audubon Society on shore birds, University of West Florida graduate students on ocean health issues – including acidification and plastic pollution, and a visit by “Monty” – a rescued screech owl under the care of the Wildlife Sanctuary of Northwest Florida.
■ The Emerald Coast Kite Flyers Club will have colorful kites in the air while The Paradise Sandman (sand sculpture artist David Robertson) will build one of his fanciful creations on the beach. He will also contribute his expertise to instruct young people on sand sculpture and help with a sand sculpture competition. See his achievements on Facebook at TheParadiseSandman.
The World Oceans Day event will be from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm on Friday, June 8, 2018 at the West Use Area of the Perdido Key State Park on Perdido Key Drive. Parking and admission will be free and ADA restrooms available.
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.
A 29 year old bicyclist was struck and killed by a vehicle along Perdido Key Drive near Gongora Drive late Wednesday, March 14, 2018. An investigation of the accident is ongoing. See the March 15, 2018 Pensacola News Journal article “29 year old bicyclist killed in Perdido Key crash” for more on the accident at pnj.com.
At its April 11, 2018 meeting, the Florida-Alabama TPO (Transportation Planning Organization) authorized that a letter be sent to the Florida Department of Transportation to conduct a “bicycle/pedestrian safety analysis on the Theo Baars Bridge…”
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.
Tropical storm season is just a few weeks away. Last year’s season was disastrous for many area of Florida, other part of the United States, and many Caribbean islands. Perdido Key was spared the brunt of major storms, but was still affected by Hurricane Nate and placed under an evacuation order. The Escambia County Emergency Operations Center (EOC) is staffed by professionals but supported by volunteers from its Emergency Support Function (EFS 18) Business and Industry Unit. EFS 18 helps the EOC connect with the business community to “respond and recover” when a “major disaster impacts the community.” Perdido Key could use at least one more volunteer for its contribution to EFS 18. During an emergency, volunteers will be working at the County’s EOC on a rotating shift. Some training and considerable commitment are required for the position; if interested, please contact Dana Pagador, Assistant Director of the Perdido Key Chamber of Commerce at 850 492-4660 or 850 619-5975.
Two Manatees Die in Regional Waters – Manatees have been seen in Northwest Florida waters in recent months. According to Sea Grant representative Rick O’Connor: “These once rare animals in the panhandle are now being found year round, and sometimes in groups.” Regrettably, two dead manatees were discovered in recent weeks, one in Okaloosa County and the other in Escambia County – probably victims of recent cold weather. The presence of manatee in our region warrants additional caution by all who use the same waterways as these gentle giants. For more on this issue, see Rick O’Connor’s article “Two Manatees in Two Weeks” in the University of Florida IFAS Extension newsletter Panhandle Outdoors.
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.
Navy Point Oyster Reefs – Escambia County personnel and volunteers have completed construction of a number of small reefs made from bagged oyster shells off Navy Point in Bayou Grande. According to County officials, the reefs will help minimize shore erosion and improve water quality, particularly if live oysters begin to take residence on the reefs. Some nearby residents have concerns about the project from possible dangers to children swimming in the area from the oyster shells and harmful bacteria in the water. See the March 21, 2018 Pensacola News Journal article “Navy Point ‘living shore’ oyster project causes concern among some residents” by Kevin Robinson for more on the issue. .
Perdido Key was recognized as one of MSN.com’s “40 Most Underrated Small Towns in America” because it has: “Everything you love about the state in general, nice weather, pristine beaches and water, wildlife preserve, unspoiled parks, etc. – you find in Perdido Key, minus the crowds,” wrote Hristina Byrnes. See the April 12, 2018 Pensacola News Journal article ”Perdido Key dubbed one of most underrated small towns in American” by Jake Newby for more on this issue at pnj.com.
And Florida placed 11 cities in the US News & World Report “Top 125” cities to live in the United States – Pensacola ranked 53! See the April 19, 2018 Pensacola News Journal article “Pensacola makes U.S. News & World Report ‘Top 125’ cities to live in the U.S.” for more information at pnj.com.
The Gulf Islands National Seashore was voted as the USA Today/10 Best Readers’ Choice Best Florida Attraction for 2018. It was selected by a panel of experts from among 20 other destination nominations. Gulf Islands National Seashore Superintendent Dan Brown said: “Being voted #1 Best Florida Attraction confirms what most of us already know – that the Gulf Islands National Seashore is a phenomenal place, with its incredibly beautiful beaches and fascinating forts.” “The best part is that it belongs to all of us to experience and enjoy.” For more on this issue, see the January 20, 2018 article by Derek Cosson “Gulf Islands National Seashore Named Best Florida Attraction” in The Pulse.
Visit Pensacola, our region’s DMO (Destination Marketing Organization) has launched a “Tourism Works” campaign to publicize the positive effects of tourism on the area. Among other benefits, Visit Pensacola officials point out that 41% of all taxes and 46% of all property taxes collected in Escambia County can be attributed to tourism. Visitors are expected to spend over $1 billion in the area by 2022 or 2023. The campaign comes at a time when County Commissioners are debating how to spend tourism tax revenue. Steve Hayes, president of Visit Pensacola, was the featured speaker at the PKA Annual Membership Meeting in February 2018. See the March 22, 2018 Pensacola News Journal article “Visit Pensacola launches new ‘Tourism Works’ campaign to tout the industry’s impact on economy” by Jason Nicholson for more on the issue at pnj.com.
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.
Gorgeous weather favored the PKA co-sponsored World Oceans Day Event on Saturday June 10, 2017 at Perdido Key State Park. Many families learned more about our endangered oceans from the several exhibits on display, including information on plastic pollution, the lionfish threat, shore bird and nesting turtle precautions, and invasive plant species. The event also featured a beach cleanup and children’s sand sculpture competition and was highlighted by a visit from Maverick (the Ice Flyers mascot), enormous colorful kites flying overhead, and a wonderful stopover by a screech owl from the Wildlife Sanctuary of Northwest Florida. Co-sponsored by the Friends of Pensacola State Parks and Florida State Park Rangers, the event was enjoyable for all and well covered by the Mullet Wrapper, the Pensacola News Journal and WEAR Channel 3.
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.