PKA, along with the Friends of Pensacola State Parks, Florida State Park personnel, and the Perdido Key Area Chamber of Commerce are sponsoring a World Oceans Day Event at the West Use Area of the Perdido Key State Park for Friday, June 7, 2018, from 10 AM until 2 PM. Numerous ocean-related exhibits and presentations, including the Discovery Depot touch tank, will be on display along with sand sculpture by a local artist and sand sculpture contest for children. There will be no charge for Park admission, so please plan to support this environmentally focused PKA event.
With our neighbors to the east in Panama City, Mexico Beach and elsewhere still recovering from Hurricane Michael, it is a good time to take stock of preparations for this year’s hurricane season. The latest NOAA predictions call for a near normal hurricane season (June 1–November 30) with 9 to 15 named storms and 4 to 8 becoming hurricanes. As last year’s experience with Michael demonstrated, hurricanes off the Gulf Coast can strengthen rapidly and leave little time for preparation. To get ready, consider reviewing the May 17, 2019 “Panhandle Outdoors” article “Preparing for Hurricane Seasons – Ten Tips to protect your home and family” by Carrie Stevenson at nwdistrict.ifas.ufl.edu. The State of Florida is providing an incentive for preparation with a tax holiday from May 31 to June 06 on items useful in any disaster. Details are available in the May 29, 2019 Pensacola News Journal article by Tom Urban and Jim Turner “Hurricane tax holiday starts in two days” at pnj.com. For more on the hurricane season, see the May 23, 2019 Associated Press/KSL.com article by Seth Borenstein “US Forecasters: Expect near normal hurricane season” at ksl.com.
Two years ago Jordan Lo, a naval aviator student at NAS Pensacola, was struck by a drunken driver on Perdido Key Drive and almost lost his life. He was one of eight pedestrians hit that night by the drunken driver. The massive wounds created doubts “he would ever independently walk, talk or even eat on his own.” His recent visit to Pensacola, in part to thank the medical staff at Baptist Hospital for saving his life, showed he was making remarkable progress in recovering from his injuries. “His goal is to pass the Navy’s medical board exam, a prerequisite needed to reapply to flight school.” For more on the story, see the May 22, 2019 Pensacola News Journal article by Colin Warren-Hicks “Flight Student injured by drunk driver determined to return to the Navy” at pnj.com.
A developing issue is the financial consequences of taking local Florida governments to task for violating their comprehensive plans. According to non-profit organization “1000 Friends of Florida,” if HB 7102 as amended becomes law, challengers to government decisions could face enormous legal fees – perhaps effectively halting such challenges. As written by 1000 Friends (selected portions for brevity):
“Florida’s Community Planning Act requires every local government to adopt and maintain a comprehensive plan – a blueprint for growth – that meets minimum standards. Local comprehensive plans provide some of the most important and locally-appropriate provisions for flood protection, fiscally responsible infrastructure, neighborhood stability, and property investment protection. Once a comprehensive plan is in place, a local government’s development decisions must be consistent with the plan. … Currently, the only tools that require local governments to abide by the law are review in administrative hearings and judicial enforcement, initiative through citizen’s legal challenges. But if HB 7103 and this amendment stand, there will be essentially no enforcement mechanism left for local planning decisions. … Supporters of the amendment to HB 7103 said it would deter frivolous lawsuits. But Florida law already gives judges the discretion to order challengers to pay legal fees when they file nuisance challenges to development decisions.”
To help deal with increasing I-10 traffic on the approaches to Mobile, plans are developing for a bridge to supplement the Wallace Tunnel on the west side of Mobile Bay. Construction of the bridge should being in 2020 with completion in 2025. While the bridge may be necessary, plans for a toll of between $3 and $6 to use it and the Wallace Tunnel are more controversial. For more on the issue, see the May 18, 2019 AL.com article by John Sharp “Toll opposition dominates I-10 Mobile River bridge project hearing” at al.com.
In July 2019, Gulf Power will implement a five year $8 per 1000 kilowatt hour increase in residential electric utility bills “to collect hurricane-related costs and maintain a storm reserve fund.” Gulf Power spokesperson Kimberly Blair noted, however, that “over the past year, Gulf Power has ‘reduced the typical bill by more than $15, so many customer’s power bills would still be less than they were in January 2018.’” For more on the issue, see the May 14, 2019 Pensacola News Journal article by Kevin Robinson “Gulf Power will add ‘storm charge’ for Hurricane Michael recovery costs’ for Hurricane Michael recovery costs” at pnj.com.
With good crowds, plentiful vendors along Harbor Walk, and thousands of caught lionfish, the 2019 Destin Lionfish Removal and Awareness Day Festival and Tournament held May 18-19 seemed a considerable success. Previous lionfish festivals have been held in the Pensacola area, such as last year’s at the Flora-Bama. For more on the recent festival, go to the May 19, 2019 nwfDailynews.com article by Heather Osbourne, “New lionfish festival in Destin a success” at nwfdailynews.com.
Visit Florida is a state-wide tourism marketing organization that receives state funding, but funds could be greatly reduced or eliminated depending on current budget negotiations. According to Steve Hays of Visit Pensacola, no or low funding of Visit Florida would “have a big impact on tourism marketing in Pensacola.” District 2 Commissioner Doug Underhill, however, “supports Visit Pensacola but thinks it is time for Visit Florida to go.” For more on the issue, see the April 30, 2019 Pensacola News Journal article by Melissa Nelson Gabriel “Promoting Pensacola to Tourists – what happens if Visit Florida goes away?” at pnj.com.
You can now join the Perdido Key Association and renew PKA memberships online. PKA has established a PayPal payment capability through this website near the bottom of each page. You do not need to be a PayPal member because PayPal also accepts credit cards. Online payment will be $31, i.e., the $30 dues plus $1 service fee; payment by check and US Mail of $30 remains available
The April 2019 AARP Bulletin provided state by state comparison of the percentage of adults 65 and older who reported volunteering in the past year. Nevada had the lowest percentage at 16.8%, but Florida was fourth lowest at 18.7%; Utah had by far the highest percentage of volunteers with 45.9%. There are several opportunities on or near Perdido Key for volunteers of all ages, including citizen science projects such as shoreline profile and seagrass monitoring and organized beach and roadside cleanups. And there is much to do: the Pensacola-area Ocean Hour announced its volunteers had collected almost 18,000 pounds of trash in 2018 and 7,400 pounds through March 2019. For more on Ocean Hour cleanups, go to the April 19, 2019 Pensacola News Journal article “Nearly 18,000 pounds of trash was picked from Pensacola-area beaches in 2018” by Sharon Gincauskas and Barbara Mozur at pnj.com.
The new building taking shape across from the Eden Condominium on Perdido Key Drive will be a Surf Style beach store, perhaps similar to one located in Orange Beach.
Navarre is an unincorporated community of Santa Rosa County, but some residents have renewed a push for “cityhood.” The effort is worth watching since Perdido Key is also an unincorporated community where incorporation has been discussed from time to time. For more on this issue, see the April 18, 2019 Pensacola News Journal article “Should Navarre incorporate? What’s behind the renewed push to make Navarre its own city” by Annie Blanks at pnj.com.
While many Floridians and public officials oppose drilling for oil and gas off Florida’s coasts, others continue its advocacy. Representatives of the American Petroleum Institute visited Pensacola in April to support “environmentally responsible access to our offshore energy resources.” Former US Senator James Webb spoke at a Pensacola Bay Center luncheon on April 4 and noted, among other arguments in favor of offshore energy production cited in the Pensacola News Journal article, that it would “free the U.S. from potential harmful entanglements with foreign power, and [provide] American citizens with jobs and opportunity.” For more on this issue, see the April 5, 2019 “Explore Offshore visits Pensacola to build support for offshore oil industry” article by Kevin Robinson at pnj.com and the April 24, 2019 USA Today Network-Florida Editorial Boards article “Turning the Toxic Tide: Permanently ban offshore drilling in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico” at pnj.com.
After several weeks of competition mimicking the NCAA basketball tournament, Pensacola emerged victorious among 16 communities by defeating Portsmouth NH in the final round of the 2019 Strong Town Contest. The Strong Towns nonprofit organization encourages development “that allows America’s cities, towns and neighborhoods to become financially strong and resilient.” According to Strong Towns: “The city [Pensacola] is growing in population, it is dramatically expanding its local economy and tax base, and it’s doing it largely by focusing on the city’s heart and soul: its historic downtown, which was first built in the 18th century.” For more on the contest, see the April 12, 2019 Pensacola News Journal article “Pensacola wins 2019 Strong Town Contest; crowned world’s ‘Strongest Town" by Kevin Robinson at pnj.com.
On April 1, 2019, Escambia County officials and others celebrated the transfer of Naval Outlying Field Site 8 from Federal to County ownership. The formal transfer took place on January 29, 2019 after several years of effort, opening it for development as part of the growing Beulah community anchored by the Navy Federal Credit Union campus. It seems likely that a master plan partially financed by Navy Federal will be developed to help guide use of the property. For more on this issue, see the January 30, 2019 Pensacola News Journal article “Escambia County takes control of OLF 8, land that may be worth up to $32 million” by Kevin Robinson at pnj.com.
Springtime features nesting birds on the Gulf Coast and Perdido Key’s osprey community is no exception. These two young ospreys were spotted in a high nest not far from Perdido Key Drive.
Among the controversial issues affecting Florida property owners is regulation of vacation rental homes. Homes that are rented short term to tourists can cause conflict with full-time residents because of noise and parking issues. How home rentals are regulated and by what level of government, e.g., state or local, has been contentious. For more on this issue, see the January 17, 2019 Florida Watchdog article “Florida bill would move regulation of rental homes from local governments to state” by Kyle Gibson at watchdog.org.
The U.S. Geological Survey confirmed that an earthquake struck just east of Flomaton, Alabama on March 13, 2019, the fourth small earthquake to affect the Florida- Alabama border region in recent weeks. They are the first earthquakes reported since 1997 and could be related to oil drilling operations. For more on the issue, see the March 16, 2019 Pensacola News Journal article “Fourth small earthquake confirmed near Florida-Alabama state line” by Annie Blanks at pnj.com.
Florida Gulf Coast University reported that “airborne cyanobacteria toxins can travel more than a mile inland,” suggesting possible additional health hazards from last year’s blue-green algae blooms. For more on the issue, see the March 18, 2019 TC Palm article “Algae crisis: Airborne particles of toxic cyanobacteria can travel more than a mile inland, new FGCU study shows” by Amy Bennett Williams at tcpalm.com.
On February 26, 2019, the True Blue shark fishing team caught a 10 foot, 650 pound great white shark off the Navarre Beach Fishing Pier. After an hour and a half struggle to reel in the shark, the team “put a tag on it, got all the measurements, and got a safe, clean release.” For more on the catch, see the February 26, 2019 Pensacola News Journal article “Caught on camera: Great white shark caught off Navarre Beach Fishing Pier” by Annie Blanks at pnj.com.
The Nature Conservancy plans to use $1 million of BP restitution money to create shelters and launches along the Perdido River. The river feeds Perdido Bay and “Our rivers are the lifeblood of the Gulf of Mexico,” said Daryl Boudreau of the Conservancy. To highlight the value and potential for enjoyment by visitors of the river systems in northern Escambia County, over 60 kayakers were making their way down the Perdido River to the Gulf of Mexico during the week of March 11. For more on this issue, see the March 13, 2019 Pensacola News Journal article “Paddling on Perdido River? Group pushes for kayak trail to highlight ‘unique and rare gem’” by Melissa Nelson Gabriel at pnj.com.
In the wake of last year’s devastating blue-green algae and red algae blooms in Florida’s waterways and along its coastline, newly elected Governor Ron DeSantis began his administration with calls for major changes to the state’s water management policies. These include $2.5 billion over the next four years for Everglades restoration and protection of water resources; establishment of a Blue-Green Algae Taskforce; instruction to the South Florida Water Management District to start the next phase of the Everglades Agricultural Area Storage Reservoir Project design; creation of the Office of Environmental Accountability and Transparency; and, appointment of a Chief Science Officer. He also called for the resignation of the directors of the South Florida water management district, a body criticized by environmental groups for its November 2018 vote awarding an eight-year extension to the sugar industry for use of Everglades’ wetlands. For more on these issues, see the Florida Governor website entry “Governor Ron DeSantis Announces Major Water Policy Reforms” at flgov.com and The Guardian January 23, 2019 article “Florida: Republican ‘green governor’ seeks to reverse predecessor’s legacy” by Richard Luscombe at theguardian.com.
Volunteers are requested to help with a "Shoreline Monitoring Citizen Science Program" on Perdido Key as part of research being conducted by the University of New Orleans and Owens Coastal Consultants. The program would extend the work begun in March 2018 on Dauphin Island, Alabama and involves taking periodic profiles of several portions of Perdido Key’s beaches to determine the "seasonal beach and sediment dynamics" so researchers and officials can be better prepared for oil spills in the future. The sample frequency, number of sample locations, and project duration are still to be determined, but Dauphin Island volunteers collect data at seven locations two or three times a month. Having 10 or so volunteers would allow a rotation of sample duties. If interested, please contact Charles Krupnick at [email protected].
At its November 14, 2018 meeting, the Escambia County Board of Adjustment approved the Escambia County staff request to allow a variance on the zoning for the currently vacant property at 16400 Perdido Key Drive for recreation use “to construct a public beach access point on the subject parcel.” The owners association of the Seafarer Condominium adjacent to the property, however, has asked the Escambia County Circuit Court to reverse the decision, arguing that the County did not meet all the requirements necessary for the ruling – including “the habitat conservation required for the site.”The legal action is discussed in the January 3, 2019 Pensacola News Journal article “Perdido Key condo owners take Escambia county to court over beach access” by Jim Little available at pnj.com.
If the Board of Adjustment decision is upheld, additional steps would still be required before part of the property can be open to public use, including more specific studies and planning plus coordination with US Fish and Wildlife. The Board of Adjustment decision followed the October 18, 2018 Escambia County Board of County Commissioners decision “To direct staff to begin to procure the planning aspect moving forward and utilize the funds that are in the Perdido Key Beach Acquisition Project of $50,000” (minutes available at escambiaclerk.com). One proposal for the property calls for 24 parking spaces and another for 39. Background information on the issue is available from the September 25, 2018 article “Three options under consideration for Perdido Key beach access” by Jim Little at pnj.com and the August 2, 2018 article “Perdido Key beach mouse or parking lot” by Melissa Nelson Gabriel available at pnj.com, both in the Pensacola News Journal.
Progress is being made toward realization of a bicycle and pedestrian path along the north side of Perdido Key Drive. The eight foot wide concrete path will be at the ground level, though separate from the roadway, with no boardwalks except in areas where dunes may be impacted. The west portion of the path (from the Alabama state line to the west end of Perdido Key State Park) is fully funded for planning/engineering and construction; planning/engineering is scheduled for completion in November 2018 and construction is scheduled for Fiscal Year 2021. The east portion (from the west end of Perdido Key State Park to Gongora Drive) is fully funded for planning/engineering which is scheduled for completion in July 2019. FDOT does not currently have construction funded though $960,000 of RESTORE (BP penalty) funding has been acquired, with the County working to obtain the remaining funds through grants and other sources. FDOT’s most recent planning level construction cost estimate is $4.5 million.
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.
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.
Shorebird nesting season began on March 1 and continues through October 31, 2019; sea turtle nesting season begins on May 1 and also ends October 31, 2019. Be particularly careful when on or driving near Perdido Key beaches and certainly obey all dune and other access limiting and warning signs.
Cogon grass is an invasive species from Southeast Asia recently spotted on Perdido Key. It is listed as one of the “Top 10 Worst Weeds in the World” and spreads readily and can displace native plants. It is a perennial grass with yellow-green foliage and a “fuzzy, white, and plume-like” seed head. For more on cogon grass, see the University of Florida Institute for Food and Agricultural Science article “Imperata cylindrical” at plants.ifas.ufl.edu.
With only 47 specimens identified in a 2012 survey, the Gulf Coast solitary bee may be on its way to extinction. It does not live in colonies and pollinates only the Coastal Plain honeycomb head (yellow buttons) found on sandy dunes. Biologist Tara Cornelisse calls it a “flagship specie” and indicative of the health of dune systems. Since the bee is struggling to survive, the dunes also may not be doing well. For more on this issue, see the March 27, 2019 Pensacola News Journal article “Pensacola area’s Gulf Coast solitary bee could be added to endangered species list” by Melissa Nelson Gabriel at pnj.com.
Called the “most deadly pathogen known to science” by biologist Wendy Palen of Simon Fraser University, chytridiomycosis is spreading and threatening frogs worldwide. In a recent study published in the journal Science, 90 amphibian species are presumed to have become extinct in the last 50 years and more are threatened. For additional information, see the March 29, 2019 USA Today article “’Catastrophic’ fungus disease is killing frogs everywhere, linked to ‘mass extinction’: Study” by Ashley May at usatoday.com.
Recent Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and Florida Sea Grant gatherings on lionfish produced a number of interesting findings. Among them was that the number of lionfish reported has declined since 2014, with many divers having difficulty finding them above 120 feet. Along with this is a decline in the number of divers interested in selling lionfish. Whether lionfish have reached their carrying capacity at Northwest Florida natural and artificial reefs is not known, so divers and those working various technologies to remove lionfish are encouraged to continue their efforts. Information drawn from a February 27, 2019 e-mail titled “An Update on the Lionfish” by Rick O’Connor sent in conjunction with National Invasive Species Awareness Week, February 2, 2019 – March 3, 2019.
Escambia County had 96 sea turtle nests on its 37 miles of beach, with the largest number at Gulf Islands National Seashore where 59 were reported. Although less than the 217 nests identified in 2017, the 2018 number (all from loggerhead sea turtles) is considered “solid” for the year. For more on this issue, see the February 20, 2019 Pensacola News Journal article “Escambia sea turtle nesting numbers solid, despite red tide and new hands-off policy” by Melissa Nelson Gabriel at pnj.com.
According to the January 11, 2019 Sea Grant Notes, Pensacola received 90 inches of rain in 2017 and 2018. These are 38% above the norm of 65 inches.
The website Sealevelrise.org noted that Florida sea levels have risen 8 inches since 1950 and are now expected to rise an inch every three years
The Perdido Key Association held its 2019 Annual Membership Meeting on Saturday, February 23, 2019 at the Eden Condominium on Perdido Key. After meeting preliminaries and member approval of the 2018 Annual Meeting Minutes and Financial Report, PKA president Charles Krupnick introduced featured speaker District 2 Commissioner Doug Underhill. The Commissioner addressed many of the issues important to Perdido Key property owners and residents, including the Perdido Key Shared-Use/Multi-Use Path – generally on track despite the loss of some previously expected funding; the 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; Florabama traffic – incremental progress being made, but an elevated pedestrian cross-over is unlikely; Escambia County budget issues – current spending may not be sustainable for the long-term; efforts to create public beach access and parking at 16400 Perdido Key Drive – an initiative he opposes which has an uncertain fate; and, the Perdido Key Master Plan (the “People’s Design Document”) – discussions continuing with the principal developer. Commissioner Underhill also noted the importance of the Habitat Conservation Plan as a defense against overdevelopment and provided detailed responses to the multiple questions, which seemed much appreciated by the audience.
PKA president Charles Krupnick then reported on PKA 2018 initiatives. In addition to periodic testimony at government decision-making bodies on issues relevant to Perdido Key, PKA co-sponsored International Coastal Cleanup Day in September and Adopt-A-Highway cleanups of a portion of Rt. 98 every quarter. He highlighted the very successful World Oceans Day event in June at Perdido Key State Park where an estimated 400 people came to view a variety of ocean conservancy relevant exhibits, plus sculptures in the beach sand and colorful kites in the skies overhead. He also noted the completion of the County’s Perdido Key Dune Restoration Project, but that little progress had been made toward underground utilities on Perdido Key. An unapproved version of the 2019 meeting minutes will be posted in the Archive page of the Perdido Key Association website in the near future.
Perdido Key Association
PO Box 16337
Pensacola, Florida 32507
Perdido Key Association is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization; donations are tax-deductible.