Please plan to join your fellow members at this year’s Perdido Key Association Holiday Party. It will be held from 6 to 9 PM on Monday, December 11, 2017, in the meeting room of the Seafarer Condominium, 16401 Perdido Key Drive (next to the Crab Trap Restaurant). Food and beverages will be provided, but all are welcome to bring food items for others to share. We hope to see you there!
A Public Hearing on a petition to use the open land (four lots) between the Holiday Harbor Marina and the nearby subdivision as a Sunset Grill parking area will be held at 5:33 PM on November 30, 2017 at the Escambia County Office Building in downtown Pensacola (221 Palafox Place). The specific request of item 13246 on the Escambia County Board of County Commissioners Regular Meeting Agenda is for “consideration of the vacation of a portion of the Gulf Beach (aka Holiday Harbor) plat. as petitioned by Thomas Bizzell, president of Holiday Harbor Marina, Inc.” The agenda document further states that the 48 space parking area will include a “20-foot landscaped buffer on the north and east sides of the parking area, and a new stormwater area for the treatment of stormwater runoff on the developed area.” Those interested in the outcome of this request should plan to attend the meeting and consider informing the Commissioners of their views on the petition.
The Perdido Key Association’s 2018 election cycle is almost upon us. PKA Board Secretary Marsha Young heads the Nominating Committee and will be accepting nominations for Director positions until December 31, 2017, both self-nominations and those from members; she can be contacted at [email protected]. After candidates are determined, ballots will be sent to PKA members along with the PKA Annual Membership Meeting notification approximately 30 days prior to the February 24, 2017 meeting where the voting will take place.
Note that you do not have to be a permanent Perdido Key resident to participate actively in PKA Board decisions since the Board has very good conference call capabilities and routinely conducts business with Directors participating remotely. Membership on the PKA Board is a great way to make a difference in your Perdido Key community.
Escambia County has been notified that its Multi-Year Implementation Plan (MYIP) for use of RESTORE funds (BP Oil Spill penalties) has been approved by the US Department of Treasury. The MYIP includes the Perdido Key Gulf of Mexico Beach Access and Perdido Key Multi-Use Path proposals. The approval allows the County to submit the individual projects for Treasury review to ensure compliance with appropriate regulations before final approval, which is anticipate for early 2018. For more on this issue, see The Pulse October 20, 2017 article by Drew Buchanan, “$8.6M Plan for Oil Spill RESTORE Projects in Pensacola Signed Off by U.S. Treasury,” at pulsegulfcoast.com.
PKA’s quarterly cleanup of Rt. 98 on Saturday, October 21, 2017, was going well, though with more trash than usual evident – apparently from a successful summer season in the region. There were lots of Florida Lottery ticket stubs along with the expected plastic bags, paper cups, and assorted cans and bottles. But one of our volunteers received a start when she picked up a piece of discarded cardboard – revealing a very health copperhead (see photo)! Keeping track of fast moving vehicles on the stretch of Rt. 98 near the Bauer Road intersection where PKA picks up litter is exciting enough, but a copperhead is another thing altogether. Clearly a good deal of caution and proper clothing are needed in our continuing cleanup duties!
The Perdido Key area was spared widespread damage when Category 1 Hurricane Nate passed by to the west on October 7 and 8, 2017, but some locations still required substantial recovery efforts. The Perdido Key Area of the Gulf Islands National Seashore (Johnson Beach), for example, was closed until October 13 because of sand on the roads; some other areas of the Seashore, such as Fort Pickens, remain closed because of substantial damage to the roadway (see photo). Areas of Escambia County received up to 7 inches of rain causing minor local flooding; Mobile sustained flooding to its downtown area, but without significant damage. Three tornadoes touched down in nearby Alabama counties, but only minor damage was reported. Pensacola Beach had some minor beach erosion while Perdido Key beaches may have escaped without much loss of sand.
Considerable damage, however, was done to some area piers and boat launches. The Gulf State Park Fishing Pier was closed for repairs because a twenty foot wave upended sections of the deck (see photo). The sections can be removed prior to expected bad weather, but Hurricane Nate moved so fast that the removal process had not been completed. The pier was reopened after about a week of repairs. Reportedly, many piers and boat launches along Santa Rosa Sound were damaged as well, along with piers in Fairhope and Point Clear. Because homes were generally not damaged, Santa Rosa County spokeswoman Brandi Whitehurst said “It was a good wake-up call for us. Honestly, it’s not a bad thing to have this happen once in a while so that people don’t get complacent, because it’s something we have to deal with.” Sources include Pensacola News Journal October 8, 2017 article by Anne Delaney “Hurricane Nate: Piers, Boat Docks Damaged in Santa Rosa County” at pnj.com, Real-Time News from Mobile October 9, 2019 article by John Sharp “Hurricane Nate aftermath: 6 inches of rain in Mobile, 6 foot storm surges, minor damage” at al.com, US National Park Service update October 17, 2017 at nps.gov, and Al.com October 9, 2017 article by Ben Raines “20 foot waves during Hurricane Nate damage Gulf State Pier, Meaher Park” at al.com.
Road Damage photo courtesy of National Park Service. Gulf State Park Pier photo courtesy of Ben Raines ([email protected]).
One of the remaining undeveloped portions of downtown Pensacola’s waterfront is located on Main Street between Joe Patti’s and Blue Wahoos Stadium. The Gulf Coast Marine Fisheries Hatchery and Enhancement Center has been in the works for several years to occupy the waterfront site. The $18.8 million project would reportedly clean up environmental contamination and provide public access to the waterfront, in addition to its fish hatchery function. Prominent local businessman Quint Studer has recently reversed his support for the project and Pensacola News Journal editorial cartoonist Andy Marlette has emphasized the sponsors’ failure to meet the contract requirement to begin construction within three years. The Pulse journalist Derek Cosson, on the other hand, emphasized that the facility will be BP funded and remains consistent with the 2010 Pensacola redevelopment plan. For more on this issues, see Pensacola News Journal October 17, 20917 article by Joseph Baucum “Opponents argue hatchery project site conflicts with urban core redevelopment plan” at pnj.com and October 21, 2017 article by Andy Marlette “The Hatchery that Never Hatched” pnj.com; see as well The Pulse October 18, 2017 article by Derek Cosson “Pulse Check: Five Facts You Need to Know About Pensacola’s Hatchery Project” at pulsegulfcoast.com.
On September 7, 2017, the Escambia County Board of County Commissioners again heard arguments regarding the request for an opt out from the Escambia County Mid-West Sector Plan, a land use document for the northern Rt. 29 corridor (north of I-10, west of Rt. 29, and south of Rt. 196) that established a number of districts designated for greater development while leaving other areas available for residential development and greater environmental protection. As with the first hearing conducted in March 2017, the Commissioners voted 4 to 1 in favor of the opt out, with District 2 Commissioner Doug Underhill dissenting. The decision will allow former County Commissioner Wilson Robertson to pursue commercial development on an 8.67 acre parcel of land designated as a Conservation Neighborhood by the Sector Plan. In defending his no vote, Commissioner Underhill lauded to efforts of Jacqueline Rogers, who argued strongly in defense of keeping the sector plan as is, and other women advocates of Escambia County, such as former Perdido Key Association president Annie Griffin, for their tireless and extraordinary work in defense of their communities.
"Rebuild Northwest Florida" is a non-profit organization established after 2004's Hurricane Ivan to help homeowners "fortify their homes against hurricane force winds." Successful applicants can receive 75% of the funding needed to upgrade their property to be more storm resistant. For more information, go to rebuildnwf.org.
What should you do if you see a potentially hazardous problem with a street, sidewalk, or drainage ditch or see public areas in need of mowing or tree trimming? Escambia County has an online reporting system at myescambia.com for these problems. The system worked well recently to correct rotting boards the created a hazard to pedestrians on a footbridge along River Road.
Discussion about possible congressional action to change the ownership of land from leasing arrangements to private title on Santa Rosa Island, including Pensacola Beach, has increased in recent weeks. A Pensacola News Journal September 26, 2017 article titled “Guestview: Who owns Pensacola Beach?” by Benjamin Stevenson, the President of the Pensacola Beach Advocates (available at pnj.com), is in favor of the legislation while the Pensacola News Journal October 8, 2017 editorial “Senators Nelson, Rubio should scrap beach bill” (at pnj.com) is strongly opposed. Senator Marco Rubio supports the bill while Senator Bill Nelson wants to ensure any legislation keeps Navarre Pass closed (see Pensacola News Journal October 2, 2017 article “Sen. Nelson wants Navarre Pass to stay closed as part of fee-simple bill” at pnj.com). The issues are complex and involve – among other concerns – property rights, taxation, public access, business opportunities, military training, and environmental impact. The debate is worthy of our attention.
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.
As designated by the August 2016 report “Critically Eroded Beaches in Florida” by the Division of Water Resource Management under the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Perdido Key beaches are critically eroded. With proposed beach renourishment (depositing off-shore sand on the beaches) in a “holding pattern,” two means of strengthening Perdido Key beachfront have been pursued by Escambia County leadership, in particular Environmental Programs Manager Tim Day and District 2 Commissioner Doug Underhill. One is the Perdido Key Dune Restoration Project approved earlier this year after receiving the go-ahead from over 80% of beachfront property owners. Using BP restitution funds resulting from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster, sea oats and other appropriate vegetation to hold dunes in place will be planted on Perdido Key beginning in November 2017.
The other initiative is to have sand dredged by the US Army Corps of Engineers from Pensacola Harbor channel – which is currently dumped offshore – deposited on the Johnson Beach/Perdido Key Area of the Gulf Islands National Seashore. Because the natural migration of sand on this portion of the Gulf coast is from east to west, the Pensacola Harbor channel disrupts and traps sand that had previously renourished Perdido Key beaches. By depositing sand dredged from the channel on National Seashore beaches, the “natural” renourishment of the rest of Perdido Key beaches could begin again.
While seemingly a common sense solution, its implementation is surprisingly complex. An update provided by Commissioner Underhill emphasized that the “Pensacola Pass Inlet Management Plan” would be one of the primary legislative initiatives for Escambia County in the 2018 State Legislative session. The implementation of the plan will involve coordination with numerous government and private stakeholders and, crucially, the allocation of sufficient funds to plan and execute the dredging on a “schedule and methodology” most beneficial to the beaches concerned. He anticipates rolling out the initiative by the end of 2017.
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.
With agreement from 84% of beachfront property owners, Escambia County will be going forward with the Perdido Key Dune Restoration Project to plant sea oats and other appropriate vegetation on Perdido Key dunes. Planting should begin in November 2017. On its website, the County has thanked participating owners and noted that it can now receive funding for the project. Beach front property owners who have not signed up can still do so. If interested, please check out the program at myescambia.com or contact Matt Posner ([email protected] / 850 595-0820).
The Perdido Key Association (PKA) held its 2017 Annual Membership Meeting on Saturday, February 25, 2017, at the Eden Condominium. Special guests included District 2 Escambia County Commissioner Doug Underhill and Sea Grant Extension Agent Rick O’Connor. Mr. O’Connor said a few words about Sea Grant and its environmental initiatives and also introduced CIG, a sea turtle model made from 1200 cigarette butts collected from a local beach (lower photo).
Featured speaker Superintendent Daniel Brown of the Gulf Islands National Seashore spoke about the challenges facing the Park Service and the National Seashore (top photo). The current hiring freeze and likelihood of federal budget cuts may put a strain on services. He discussed recent issues at the Perdido Key Area of the National Seashore, including a ban on primitive camping because of trash and equipment left behind and inappropriate personal behavior. He noted that in the coming years the current practice of parking along Johnson Beach Road will be ended and that parking will be shifted to dedicated lots with new and higher dune crossovers.
Superintendent Brown also discussed the Army Corps of Engineers practice of dumping sand dredged from Pensacola Harbor to Gulf waters beyond where the sand could assist in Perdido Key beach renourishment. While placing it closer to the Perdido Key Area of the Gulf Islands National Seashore was tried at one time, it was more expensive than dumping the sand at sea – noting that the Corps of Engineers has been under congressional mandate to minimize expenses. Commissioner Underhill and members of the audience engaged in further discussions on this topic since dumping sand from dredging has been offered as one the alternatives to beach renourishment for Perdido Key beaches – along with dune renourishment. Commissioner Underhill indicated he was working to ensure the dredged sand was dumped where it would do the most good. Superintendent Brown’s presentation provided an excellent alternative perspective on the issues facing beach communities like Perdido Key and was much appreciated by those in attendance. A copy of the unapproved minutes of the meeting is posted in the Archive page of this website.