Thanks to the many Perdido Key property owners who participated in the 2020 Perdido Key Property Owner Survey! The survey forms have been collected and will be tabulated and analyzed by personnel from the University of Alabama College of Communications & Information Science.
At its July 22, 2020 meeting, the Escambia County Board of Adjustment (BOA) denied the Seafarer Condominium appeal of the Development Order for construction of a new beach access location at 16477 Perdido Key Drive, just east of the Crab Trap Restaurant. The County has conducted initial site work to remove debris from the former condominium site and asphalt parking area. Prior to construction of a beach access location, the County needs additional approvals from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the Perdido Key Habitat Conservation Plan and to develop a management plan. There is also an appeal filed with the Circuit Court on approval of conditional use of the site and the Seafarer has the option to appeal the recent BOA denial with the Circuit Court.
A new crosswalk and light on Perdido Key Drive at the Flora-Bama is operational. The following paragraph regarding the new crosswalk and light was provided by the Escambia County Transportation Engineer:
“The new pedestrian crosswalk signal at Flora-Bama was completed on June 26, 2020 by Florida Department of Transportation in an effort to eliminate fatalities and improve pedestrian access to commercial destinations on both sides of Perdido Key Drive. The crosswalk is raised 3-inches above the grade of Perdido Key Drive to create a raised crossing and improve safety through reduced speeds. The crosswalk is designed for 25 MPH as posted approaching the intersection. The signal is timed to allow for a minimum of 30 seconds of green time for vehicles between pedestrian crossings. Pedestrians who push button are advised by an audible signal to “Wait.” Once cars are stopped on red, the signal says “Crosswalk is on,” then once the countdown signal starts, it says “10, 9, 8, 7” and so on. The timing of the pedestrian crossing is timed per national standards for the distance of the crossing. Escambia County Traffic Operations Division has now taken ownership and operations of this signal. Understanding this is a new signal, new raised crossing, and this location has multiple events, we expect that it will take a few months for our residents and visitors to adjust to this improvement. Since it has gone into operation, no reported crashes or injuries. This project also supports the goal of the Perdido Key Master Plan to create a walkable and bikeable community.”
On June 25, 2020 the US Treasury approved Amendment #1 to the RESTORE Act Direct Component Multi-Year Implementation Plan put forward by the Escambia County Board of County Commissioners. The Amendment increases funding for the east portion of the Perdido Key Multi-Use Path from $960,000 to $4.5 million and was the final fiscal requirement needed to build the Path. Construction of the west portion of the Path is likely to begin in early 2021; construction of the east portion should begin later in 2021 following completion of design and engineering requirements. For more on the issue, go to myescambia.com.
Perdido Key and surrounding areas received strong winds, big surf and heavy rains from Tropical Storm Cristobal in June while Hurricane Hanna battered south Texas and northern Mexico in July. While Hurricane Isaias spared Florida from most of its wrath, it dealt a heavy blow to much of the East Coast from to the Carolina’s and many states to the north. According to NOAA and other predictions, the 2020 hurricane season is expected to have an above average number of tropical storms and hurricanes.
At a June 2020 public meeting at the Perdido Key Visitors Center, Escambia County Public Safety personnel discussed some issues to be faced when tropical storms come our way. For example, area bridges close when sustained winds reach 39 mph, utilities usually remain operational until the storm takes them down, Perdido Key and Orange Beach officials coordinate their emergency responses, evacuations are correlated with storm levels and sheltering storm evacuees – with emergency shelters “a lifeboat not a love boat” – will be challenging because of COVID-19 concerns. For Escambia County’s “Be Ready Escambia,” go to myescambia.com; for the Weather Channel article “2020 Hurricane season expected to be more active than normal, Colorado State University outlook says” by Jonathan Belles and Brian Donegan go to weather.com.
Both Florida and Alabama have been moving forward with reopening beaches and other coastal activities following the precautions taken because of the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to Escambia County public beach access locations, Perdido Key State Park and the Perdido Key Area of the Gulf Islands National Seashore have reopened and restored beach availability to essentially pre-COVID-19 status. Restaurants and a number of other businesses previously closed or subject to limitations are undergoing a phased reopening with social distancing practices in place. For Florida, directions and guidance on restrictions and reopening can be found at web locations such as Governor De Santis’ Executive Orders at flgov.com and the Florida Department of Health at floridahealth.gov; guidelines for Alabama’s reopening are available from the Alabama Public Health website at alabamapublichealth.gov; other resources include the US Federal Government at usa.gov/coronavirus and local media.
Escambia County officials hosted a public workshop on Thursday, June 11, 2020 at the Lost Key Golf Club on possible safety and traffic flow improvements at the Perdido Key Drive/Johnson Beach Road intersection. A large turnout overflowed the meeting area and benefited from an informative presentation by Escambia County Traffic Engineer Christine Fanchi showing the pros and cons of three alternatives, i.e., leaving the intersection as is, installing a traffic signal or constructing a roundabout. Project boards were posted to allow attendees to examine the alternatives more closely and express their preferences. With a price tag of perhaps $500,000, the roundabout option seemed to have the most support. As expressed by Ms Fanchi, an advantage of a roundabout would be “traffic calming” (slowing traffic down) to improve safety for pedestrians and cyclists crossing Perdido Key Drive from the “to be constructed” Perdido Key Multi-Use Path to the Johnson Beach Road path.
With several large condominiums in the area and access to the Perdido Key Area of the Gulf Islands National Seashore, summer traffic can lead to significant backups on Johnson Beach Road and make left turns from Johnson Beach Road onto Perdido Key Drive hazardous and at times almost impossible. In 2016 an accident with a fatality occurred near the intersection. For more information about the workshop, see the June 12, 2020 Pensacola News Journal article “Perdido Key residents show support for roundabout at Perdido Key Drive and Johnson Beach Road” by Madison Arnold at pnj.com.
COVID 19 is extremely infectious so considerable direction has been given on how to impede its spread. The following guidance is from the Escambia County web location on COVID 19: “stay home when you are sick; cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then discard in trash; avoid close contact with people who are sick; avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands; wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds; use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water is not available; and, clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.” Some recent commentary gives more consideration to wearing facemasks. Guidance on testing for COVID 19 in Escambia County can be obtained at myescambia.com.
US Federal Government at usa.gov/coronavirus
State of Florida updates at floridahealth.gov
Escambia County at myescambia.com
Visit Pensacola updates at visitpensacola.com
Mullet Wrapper at mulletwrapper.net
Pensacola News Journal “COVID 19 Watch” for subscribers
Florida Sea Grant compilation of disaster assistance programs at flseagrant.org.
Monarch Butterfly Images: Maryland Dept of Natural Rsources cite Eric Heupel Flickr and Kerry Wixted / Adult bluebird on a nest: Molly O’Connor / Bluebird box / bluebird nest: L. Lazear
Escambia County vacation rentals were closed during the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic, but reopened by Memorial Day weekend; area hotels were not closed. Since reopening, vacation rentals have maintained essentially normal occupancy rates while hotel rates have been down, especially during weekdays. For more on this issue, see the Pensacola News Journal July 23, 2020 article “Escambia County summer hotel bookings fall short of tourism leaders’ hopes” by Madison Arnold at pnj.com.
The Big Lagoon Boat Landing reopened in June 2020 after a substantial and well received renovation. Gulf State Park Pier has been closed for modernization. Its reopening, originally scheduled for mid-July 2020, has been delayed to sometime in August. The renovation will include replacing decking and handrails and installing turtle-friendly lighting. “At the octagon located on the south end of the pier, a new 50-by-18-foot elevated observation deck will be constructed above the existing pier deck, which will give visitors approximately 850 additional square feet of viewing space.” For more on the issue, see the April 14, 2020 Gulf State Park news press release “Gulf State Park Pier Will Close for Renovation, Maintenance” at outdooralabama.com.
DPZ, the design firm that helped with the Perdido Key Master Plan, has been selected for the planning process for OLF-8, i.e., the 640 acre former Navy Outlying Field 8 adjacent to the Navy Federal Credit Union complex in the Beulah area of western Escambia County. Because of concerns for COVID-19, DPZ’s “charrette” process has been replaced with a request for public input to a new website at colab.dpz.com/olf8 and Facebook page at facebook.com/myolf8/. For more on the issue, see the Pensacola News Journal July 24, 2020 article “You can share input on the fate of OLF-8” by Madison Arnold at pnj.com.
Winter storms and tides in 2019/2020 took a toll on beaches near the eastern end of populated Perdido Key, but as summer begins the beaches seem to have made at least a partial recovery.
The Innerarity Island water and sewer system being upgraded for transfer to ECUA – now about 50% complete – remains contentious as evidenced by discussion at the May 7, 2020 and June 18, 2020 Escambia County Board of County Commissioner’s (BOCC) meetings. The annual municipal services benefit unit (MSBU) fee for each of the 200 or so property owner may total up to $20,000 for the $4.5 to $5.6 million upgrade. Some of the cost could be paid for by sale of lots owned by Escambia County but intended in part for amenities, conservation and green-space. No decision was made at either meeting with District 2 Commission Doug Underhill explaining: “The impact on you [Innerarity Island property owners] in terms of dollars coming out of your pocket doesn’t begin until the next fiscal year. (The period in-between), that’s the time for us to come back and reevaluate the positions that we took a few years ago with regard to maintaining the environmental issues on the island, sale prices and those kind of things.” For more on the issue, see the May 11, 2020 Pensacola News Journal article “Escambia County to review how it became responsible for Innerarity Island’s sewer system” by Jim Little at pnj.com and the June 19, 2020 Pensacola News Journal article “Innerarity Island residents likely won’t know cost of new sewer system until September” by Kevin Robinson at pnj.com.
With a ceremony postponed until an appropriate future date, Innerarity Point Park is nonetheless open and sure to be a family favorite with “an ADA-accessible boardwalk as well as a dock for fishing and paddle crafts, covered pavilions, two playgrounds, restrooms and parking.” For more on the new park, see the February 25, 2020 Pensacola News Journal article “Neighbors support Innerarity Point Park opening, have mixed feelings on Galvez Landing updates” by Madison Arnold at pnj.com. In a related issue, Escambia County will hold public hearings in July 2020 on a proposed “motorboat exclusion zone” at the new Park, in addition to a slow speed zone in the eastern portion of Bayou Garcon. The proposals will be evaluated at the July 16, 2020 Escambia County Board of County Commissioners meeting. For more on this issue, see the June 21, 2020 Pensacola News Journal article “Innerarity Point, Bayou Garcon may get new boating rules” by Kevin Robinson.
The annual Lionfish Challenge is underway and will run until September 7, 2020. Hosted by the Reef Rangers of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and open to recreational and commercial participants, the event features prizes for the most lionfish caught along with other challenges and activities. Winners will be announced at the Lionfish Removal and Awareness Festival in Destin, September 11-13, 2020. For more on the event, see the May 21, 2020 Pensacola News Journal article “2020 Lionfish Challenge kicks off Friday; winners to be announce in September in Destin” by Jake Newby at pnj.com.
Escambia County has released two short films of likely interest to many in the Perdido Key area. One discusses the Pensacola Pass Inlet Management Plan (youtube.com) and how it is expected to improve beach erosion conditions on Perdido Key. The second tells the story of the Perdido Key beach mouse and a good bit about Perdido Key itself. Titled "Little Beach Mouse from the South" it can be accessed at intonaturefilms.org. The film is almost a half hour long but well worth viewing.
The Santa Rosa Island Authority (SRIA) has asked the Escambia County Board of County Commissioners to pass an ordinance restricting the use of e-scooters and micro-mobility vehicles on a large portion of Pensacola Beach. A major concern is the vehicles can be left unattended and block paths, creating hazards for others and particularly those using ADA mobility devices. The State of Florida passed a law “denying local entities the ability to ban the use of scooters but allow them to regulate their use”; the SRIA draft ordinance is based on one from “Panama City that had stood up to legal scrutiny.” For more on the issue see the June 11, 2020 Pensacola News Journal article “SRIA supports strict ordinance to ban e-scooters on much of Pensacola Beach” by Madison Arnold at pnj.com.
Darien Schaefer has assumed duties as Visit Pensacola’s new President and CEO. He comes to the area from three years as CEO at Visit Big Bear in Big Bear Lake, California and has over 20 years of destination marketing experience, including CEO of VISIT Lake Geneva and Executive Director of the Wausau/Central Wisconsin CVB and Sports Authority. For more on the issue, see the March 11, 2020 Pensacola News Journal article “Visit Pensacola switches direction for next president, tap Darien Schaefer after first choice drops out” by Madison Arnold at pnj.com.
Virtual tours of local museums and other activities were identified in the April 15, 2020 Pensacola News Journal article “Pensacola pride: Virtual museum tours, beach webcams you can enjoy from home” by Jake Newby at pnj.com.
Manatee have been sighted in Big Lagoon and nearby waters, including the one captured in the accompanying photo swimming near NAS Pensacola on April 20, 2020. With the apparent increase in manatee sightings in the Perdido Key area, extra care in boating may be appropriate. For information on precautions, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s “A boater’s guide to Living with Florida Manatee” is available at myfwc.com.
Photo by Nicole White April 20, 2020
Because of the COVID 19 pandemic, the annual ceremony at Rosamond Johnson Beach on the Perdido Key Area of the Gulf Islands National Seashore honoring Army Private Rosamond Johnson has been postponed. Usually conducted the first weekend in May, the ceremony has been rescheduled for Veterans Day, Wednesday, November 11, 2020.
Earth Day was celebrated worldwide on April 22, 2020 – its 50th year, but mostly online because of the COVID 19 pandemic. “The theme for Earth Day 2020 is climate action. The enormous challenge — but also the vast opportunities — of action on climate change have distinguished the issue as the most pressing topic for the 50th anniversary.” For commentary about Earth Day concerns and activities, consider the following websites: “Earth Day 2020 goes digital amid coronavirus pandemic” by Jessica Flores at usatoday.com; “Earth Day at 50: Best Ways to change the world” by Gaia Vince at bbc.com; and, Earth Day 2020 organization websites at earthday.org and twitter.com/EarthDayNetwork.
Graphic: Oxbow Eco-Center, St. Lucie County FL
Oprah Magazine named Perdido Key 13th among 60 small American towns worth visiting. “In this town, you can skip the touristy parts of the state and relax by the (much less crowded) beach. With fishing, boating, snorkeling, multiple golf courses, and more, there is a little something for everyone.” Drawn from January 24, 2020 Pensacola News Journal article “Oprah Magazine names Perdido Key one of America’s 60 most charming small towns to visit” by Jake Newby at pnj.com.
Short-term home rentals can be disruptive to residential neighborhoods, with local governments sometimes restricting them. In 2011, however, the Florida legislature banned cities and counties from adopting any new vacation rental rules. This was rolled back in 2014 following public protest and “allowed communities to regulate rentals, so long as they did not ban them outright or limit their frequency or duration.” Some lawmakers are now pushing to return to essentially the 2011 standard. For more on this issue, see the January 14, 2020 Tallahassee Democrat article “Florida’s battle over short-term rentals resumes” by Zac Anderson at tallahassee.com.
World Oceans Day is celebrated on June 8 every year. As coordinated worldwide by The Ocean Project, “World Oceans Day is a global day of ocean celebration and collaboration for a better future.” A healthy ocean is critical to our survival, providing most of the oxygen we breath, helping to feed us, regulating our climate, cleaning the water we drink, providing a “pharmacopoeia of medicines,” and limitless inspiration! (Drawn from sevenseasmedia.org) This year’s World Oceans Day coincides with the United Nations Ocean Conference and Sustainable Development Goal SDG #14 – Life Under Water being held in Lisbon from June 2-6, 2020. The conference examined aspirations such as reducing marine pollution and ocean acidification and promoting sustainable fishing. (For more on the conference, go to seasave.org). World Oceans Day 2020 correspondingly has the goal of calling “on world leaders to protect 30% of our blue planet by 2030. This critical need is called 30x30. By safeguarding at least 30% of our ocean through a network of highly protected areas we can help ensure a healthy home for all!” (From The Ocean Project website at worldoceansday.org).
Perdido Key World Oceans Day Event – The Perdido Key Association (PKA), Friends of Pensacola State Parks and Pensacola area State Parks have sponsored World Oceans Day events at Perdido Key State Park since 2017, but for 2020 held it online because of the COVID-19 pandemic – as was done at other World Oceans Day celebrations worldwide. Ocean related topics were posted on organization websites from June 2, 2020 through June 8, 2020 to help spread the word about our wonderful but threatened oceans.
International Coastal Cleanup Day was held on a windy September 21, 2019 and drew about 40 volunteers who cleaned Perdido Key beaches from the Alabama border to the Perdido Key Area of Gulf Islands National Seashore. PKA members also used a kayak to scour the Old River side of the State Park and removed trash from its shoreline. The annual event was based at Perdido Key State Park and hosted by the Perdido Key Association, Friends of Pensacola State Parks, and Florida State Parks.
The Perdido Key Association held its Annual Membership Meeting on February 29, 2020 at the Eden Condominium. Guest speaker Dr. Alissa Deming, the Staff Veterinarian with the Alabama Marine Mammal Stranding Network based on Dauphin Island, provided a very informed and interesting presentation on the health of the Gulf Coast bottlenose dolphin population. She pointed out that the current dolphin Unusual Mortality Event could be related to increased fresh water in local areas from the past year’s weather events. She also noted that the health of dolphins, as the region’s top oceanic predator, can be a good indicator of the overall health of the ecosystem they inhabit. PKA president Charles Krupnick followed with updates of a number of Perdido Key issues, such as progress on the Perdido Key Multi-Use Path and Perdido Key Master Plan. He also covered PKA initiatives and particularly the soon-to-be distributed 2020 Perdido Key Property Owner Survey – noting the cost challenges of the project. Approximately 40 people attended the meeting and seemed to appreciate the information provided.
Most of the first hatchlings from the 38 sea turtle nests on Gulf Islands National Seashore were believed to have made it safely to the sea. Gulf Island’s remaining nests and the 24 in Escambia County are expected to follow soon. Most sea turtles in the Pensacola area are loggerhead, though Gulf Islands has a green turtle nest and Escambia County two Kemp Ridley nests. For more on this issue, see the Pensacola News Journal July 28, 2020 article “Gulf Islands sees first sea turtle hatching Sunday night, Escambia County expects hatchlings soon” by Madison Arnold at pnj.com.
Of the estimated 100,000 to 300,000 Burmese pythons in the Everglades, 5,000 have been captured since a bounty program began. For more on pythons in Florida, see the US News and World Report July 29, 2020 article “Slithery milestone: 5,000 pythons captured in Everglades” from the Associated Press at usnews.com.
The BBC Reel article “Oceans can be successfully restored by 2050, say scientists,” by Matt McGrath states that while oceans have been exploited by mankind for centuries and severely compromised by climate change and acidification, research also points to the oceans’ resilience. This is apparent in the rebound of humpback whales in recent years and the drop in the proportion of marine species threatened with extinction from 18% in 2000 to 11.4% in 2019 [data from the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature)]. The hopeful conclusion comes from knowing the “key components” in rebuilding the oceans, such as salt marshes, oyster reefs, and megafauna, and the range of actions required. According to Professor Callum Roberts: “Science gives us reason to be optimistic about the future of our oceans, but we are not currently doing enough in the UK or globally.” Rescuing the oceans is difficult but achievable; according to Professor Carlos Duarte, “Failure to embrace this challenge, and in doing so condemning our grandchildren to a broken ocean unable to support high quality livelihood is not an option.” The article is available at bbc.com.
The Gulf Frontal Watershed Management Plan is an initiative to address water quality issues in the Mobile Bay and Perdido Bay watersheds. As part of the Mobile Bay National Estuary Program, it hopes to bring a diverse array of stakeholders to the table to address ongoing environmental issues in the region, such as storm water runoff, wetlands restoration, and land use planning and practices. More information on the program is available at a variety of online locations, including the Mobile Bay National Estuary Program website at mobilebaynep.com and on Facebook. To join the mailing list, go to constantcontact.com.
The Pensacola News Journal has been running a series of articles on environmental problems in the region, including water quality in Perdido Bay and other nearby waterways. As one article noted, the “Sins of the Past” still weigh heavily on Escambia County. Concerns with water quality extend to recent minor outbreaks of blue-green algae in Santa Rosa Sound, red algae in nearby Gulf of Mexico waters, and the US Coast Guard decision to no longer use “Mobile Bay for certain types of exercises after rescue swimmers reported falling ill during training.” For more on these issues, see the November 20, 2019 Pensacola News Journal article “Paradise Squandered: Escambia County confronts pollution 'sins of the past' | Part 3” by Kevin Robinson at pnj.com and the al.com article “Coast Guard moves training out of Mobile Bay after swimmers get sick” by Christopher Harress at al.com.
At the 10th US Symposium on Harmful Algae held November 3-7, 2019 in Orange Beach, Alabama, a panel discussion on stakeholder opinion about harmful algae suggested at least two points of interest: not enough money is being allocated to properly investigate and monitor the proliferation of dangerous algae; and, when dangerous algae blooms appear, the availability of social media makes it difficult for authoritative information to reach the public because of the rapid spread of sometimes incomplete and inaccurate information over social media..
Perdido Key Association
PO Box 16337
Pensacola, Florida 32507
Perdido Key Association is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization; donations are tax-deductible.