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 June 2019 Florida Department of Environmental Protection document “Critically Eroded Beaches in Florida” altered the declared status of Perdido Key beaches. Whereas all beaches from the National Seashore to the Alabama border had previously been designated as “critically eroded,” only the eastern three miles (approximately to the entrance to the Perdido Key State Park East Use Area) are now so designated – with the western portion no longer considered eroded. The Perdido Key Area of the Gulf Islands National Seashore is designated as “non-critically eroded” as in previous documents. The “Critically Eroded Beaches in Florida” document is available at floridadep.gov.
The latest proposal for public beach access to the 4-acre property just east of the Crab Trap Restaurant on Perdido Key calls for 43 parking spaces, a 40 foot by 32 foot space for full bathroom and rinse area and a corridor for Public Safety to transport rescue equipment to the beach. A dune walkover and ADA observation platform will be included in the final design. Approval by the US Fish and Wildlife Service and other reviews and approvals are still required, including decisions on Escambia County funding. The court challenge to the project has not yet been resolved. A previous update on the project is available in the July 22, 2019 Pensacola News Journal article “Opening of controversial Perdido Key beach parking lot delayed for environmental changes” by Melissa Nelson Gabriel at pnj.com.
Bernie Stewart nearly lost his life from vibrio vulnificus, often referred to as “flesh-eating bacteria." According to the Pensacola News Journal October 11, 2019 article, “Pensacola man nearly dies after contracting flesh-eating bacteria while fishing in Big Lagoon” by Annie Blanks, symptoms appeared within two hours of a kayak fishing trip on Big Lagoon and by the next day multiple organ failure had occurred. After emergency surgery and two and a half weeks of medically-induced coma at Sacred Heart Hospital, he is making progress toward recovery. According to John Lanza, Director and Health Officer for the Florida Department of Health in Escambia County, the bacteria is “much more commonly occurring than people think” and “can be found in Gulf and brackish waters” with “increases in concentration depending on the time of year and temperature.” There have been 22 confirmed cases of the bacteria in Florida in 2019 with three in Escambia County; one Hillsborough County case resulted in death. To access the article, go to pnj.com.
Gulf Islands National Seashore announced a $5 increase in entrance fees for 2020, from $20 to $25 per vehicle, $10 to $15 per person, $10 to $15 per motorcycle and $40 to $45 for the park-specific annual pass. The increase will be used to fund park maintenance and applies to all 112 parks that charge an entry fee. For more on the issue, see the September 27, 2019 Pensacola News Journal article “Why fees at Gulf Islands National Seashore will go up starting in 2020” by Melissa Nelson Gabriel at pnj.com.
Gulf Islands National Seashore is distributing car magnets with the image of the Perdido Key beach mouse as part of its “ongoing wildlife awareness campaign.” Brent Everitt, spokesperson for Gulf Islands, said “this is the first year the park will highlight the endangered Perdido Key beach mouse with a magnet.” He added that “the mice help to stabilize the dunes” and that “while small, the mouse has a big impact on the dune communities it calls home.” The magnets can be picked up at the entry gate of the Perdido Key Area of the Gulf Islands National Seashore. For more on this issue, see the October 2, 2019 Pensacola News Journal article “How to get a free Perdido Key beach mouse magnet from Gulf Islands National Seashore” by Melissa Nelson Gabriel at pnj.com.
A proposal moving forward in the Florida legislature would encourage shifts from above ground to underground electrical utilities as part of efforts to reduce power outages after hurricanes. A key part of the measure apparently would be financing projects with “upfront costs for consumers” instead of past practice where changes have “generally been financed through base electric rates…” A number of contentious issues seem to remain as the legislation moves forward toward implementation. Many hope that Perdido Key, where main roads have above ground utilities, will be able to convert to underground utilities at some point in the future. For more on this issue, see the October 3, 2019 The News Service of Florida article “Underground power lines measure takes another step” by Jim Saunders at gainesville.com.
The current moratorium on oil and gas drilling off Florida expires in 2022, but the US House of Representatives has passed a bill that would prevent drilling indefinitely. H.R. 205, called the “Protecting and Securing Florida’s Coastline Act of 2019,” was co-sponsored by Representative Matt Gaetz from Florida’s First Congressional District who noted that “Florida’s precious coastline is a national treasure and a vital military asset.” The proposed ban or similar one proposed by Florida Senator Marco Rubio is likely to have a difficult time gaining support in the US Senate and within the current Administration to become law. For more on this issue, see the September 11, 2019 Pensacola News Journal article “House passes bill to permanently ban drilling off Florida’s Gulf Coast” by Jim Little at pnj.com.
Mobi Mats are polyester mats placed over sand to allow people in wheelchairs or those with difficulty walking on sand to make their way to the shore. Three had been installed at Navarre Beach in 2018 but were recently removed because of “apparent environmental violations brought against Santa Rosa County by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.” Mobi Mats are installed at some Pensacola Beach access locations where, according to officials, correct procedures had been followed. For more on the issue, see the October 5, 2019 Pensacola News Journal article “Beach removes unapproved Mobi Mats” by Annie Blanks available at msn.com.
Steve Hayes will depart as President of Visit Pensacola in December 2019 after accepting the CEO position at Visit St. Pete/Clearwater in Pinellas County. Visit Pensacola has supported PKA and its goals through advertising events and grant funding of World Oceans Day activities. Mr. Hayes was also a much appreciated speaker at PKA’s 2018 Annual Membership Meeting. For more on the story, see the Visit Pensacola media release by Nicole Stacey “Visit Pensacola President Accepts CEO Position with Visit St. Pete/Clearwater” at visitpensacola.com.
Providers of wireless services are installing small cell transmitters throughout Escambia County to pave the way for the coming 5G technology. There is controversy, however, on where the transmitters can be located and whose permission is required to do so. For more on the issue see the August 13, 2019 Pensacola News Journal article “5G cell towers could be coming to your front yard. Here’s why Pensacola can’t stop them” by Jim Little at pnj.com and the September 13, 2019 Pensacola News Journal article “See if you live near a proposed small cell transmitter in Pensacola” by Jim Little at pnj.com.
Hurricane Dorian destroyed Abaco and Grand Bahama islands in the Bahamas and severely damaged others, taking many lives in the country. On the US east coast, Florida escaped major damage, but the Carolinas took a hard hit from strong winds – including tornados, storm surge, and torrential rains. Hundreds of thousands were left without power by the storm. With our neighbors in Panama City, Mexico Beach and elsewhere still recovering from Hurricane Michael, no reminder is necessary of the dangers of hurricane season and the need for adequate preparations. The latest NOAA predictions call for an “above normal” hurricane season (June 1–November 30) with 10 to 17 named storms and five to nine hurricanes, with two to four becoming major. As last year’s experience with Michael demonstrated, hurricanes off the Gulf Coast can strengthen rapidly and leave little time to react. One resource for preparing is the May 17, 2019 “Panhandle Outdoors” article “Preparing for Hurricane Seasons – Ten Tips to protect your home and family” by Carrie Stevenson. For predictions on the current hurricane season, see the August 8, 2019 Treasure Coast Newspapers article “NOAA updates projections, saying ‘‘above normal’ season could see 5-9 hurricanes, 2-4 of them major” by Corey Arwood at tcpalm.com.
September 16, 2019 marked 15 years since Hurricane Ivan devastated Perdido Key and surrounding areas. To commemorate the disaster, the Pensacola News Journal published the article “15 years later, Hurricane Ivan remembered as one of the costliest storms to hit Panhandle” on September 12, 2019 with links to a variety of photos and commentary about the event, available at pnj.com.
The proposed swap of Perdido Key Drive from State of Florida to Escambia County control and Beulah Road from County to State control was unanimously approved at the September 5, 2019 Escambia County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) meeting. The change will allow state funding for road construction to help alleviate the traffic increases brought on by expansion of the Navy Federal Credit Union complex and other growth in the Beulah area. For Perdido Key, the change will allow more rapid changes to traffic safety control measures, such as converting crosswalk signals from yellow to red lights, crossing guards at the Flora-Bama to improve traffic flow, and a “to be determined” signal/roundabout at the Perdido Key Drive- Johnson Beach Road intersection. These should help expedite fulfillment of the Perdido Key Master Plan. FDOT funding already committed for construction of the Perdido Key Multi-Use Path along Perdido Key Drive is expected to continue. For more on the issue, see the September 7, 2019 Pensacola News Journal article “Escambia County votes to take over Perdido Key Drive and give portion of Beulah Road to the state” by Jim Little at pnj.com and the Escambia County/FDOT “Roadway Transfer Agreement” at myescambia.com.
At its September 5, 2019 meeting, the Escambia County Board of County Commissioners approved a resolution recognizing a State of Florida FDEP study grant concerning the Pensacola Pass Management Plan and appropriated the required matching funds ($103,750) for the project. The grant helps move forward plans to deposit sand dredged from Pensacola Pass onto the Perdido Key Area of the Gulf Islands National Seashore instead of off-shore. The generally westward migration of sand in the region should help replenish the beaches of Perdido Key, much of which are listed as critically eroded. For more information on the Pensacola Pass Inlet Management Plan, see the February 7, 2018 Pensacola News Journal article “New plan would ‘naturally replenish’ erosion on Perdido Key beaches” by Melissa Nelson Gabriel at pnj.com.
The two year long efforts by the Save Pensacola Beach citizens group to have an ordinance that supports the results of the 2018 referendum against efforts to change leased lands on Pensacola Beach to fee-simple met with success at the September 5, 2019 meeting of the Escambia County Board of County Commissioners. The Commissioners unanimously approved the ordinance that “codifies the building limit of 4,126 units and requires unanimous approval of both the Santa Rosa Island Authority and the County commission to change the building cap in the future. It also prohibits any of the 4,126 units from being transferred to another property.” In addition, the ordinance requires unanimous County and Island Authority approval to change zoning on properties zoned for conservation or recreation and adds 224 acres of protected land to the 372 already preserved by state law. For more on the issue, see the September 6, 2019 Pensacola News Journal article “Pensacola Beach preservation ordinance approved unanimously” by Jim Little at pnj.com.
The completed span of the new Pensacola Bay Bridge from Pensacola to Gulf Breeze was put in service on September 4, 2019 with eastbound traffic; westbound traffic would begin within a few days. Once completed, “the bridge will consist of two parallel structures, each equipped with three travel lanes, adjacent inside and outside shoulders and 10-foot multi-use paths for pedestrians and bicyclists.” For more on the new bridge, go to the September 5, 2019 Pensacola News Journal article “First phase of New Pensacola Bay Bridge traffic transition off to smooth start” by Jake Newby at pnj.com.
The Florida State Fire Marshal’s Office has completed its investigation into the cause of the June 19, 2019 fire that destroyed 26 condominiums on Perdido Key not far from the Florida-Alabama state line. It found that the size and severity of the fire “made it impossible for investigators to determine the point of origin” and closed the investigation. For more on the issue, see September 6, 2019 Pensacola News Journal article “State Fire Marshall stumped on cause of Perdido Key condo fire” by Kevin Robinson at pnj.com.
The fire broke out at 4 AM at the Key Harbour condominiums not far from the Flora-Bama. Windy conditions and the close proximity of wooden structures to each other contributed to the destruction of many condos at Key Harbour, Pescador Landing, and a single dwelling west of Key Harbour; other units suffering damage as well. Thanks to the efforts of first responders and citizens, guests and residents were alerted and there were no fatalities, though two people were hospitalized. Escambia County Fire Rescue, Escambia County Sheriff’s Office, and other county first responders, along with emergency services from Orange Beach, Pensacola and other locales helped keep the damage from becoming even more disastrous than it was. For more on the fire, see the June 19, 2019 Pensacola News Journal article “Let’s Just Get Out: Fire rips through Perdido Key destroying 26 condos and displaying dozens” by Kevin Robinson and Colin Warren-Hicks at pnj.com and the June 26, 2019 AL.com posting “’Where is the water?’ Angry Perdido Key residents blame county for unprepared fire department” by Christopher Harris at al.com.
Additional construction on Perdido Key includes more duplex and sixplex homes at the Lost Key Golf & Beach Club. Construction has also begun on single family homes off River Road along Gardenglen Drive to the dead end of Semmes Road. This will fill in one of the remaining tracts of land between Lost Key and River Road.
The boat ramp at Big Lagoon State Park is closed for 9-10 months of renovation. With funding provided as a result of the BP oil spill, the slip will be substantially upgraded during the closure.
The Garcon Landing boat ramp will be renovated in 2020. According to Robert Turpin, manager for the Escambia County Marine Resources Division, the boat ramp will provide “longer parking and better turning radii” so that parking and launching will be easier and safer. According to Mr. Turpin, public input regarding the project can still be made, with the next Marine Advisory Meeting scheduled for 5:30 PM, Monday, September 9, 2019 at the Escambia County Central Office Complex. For more on this issue, see the August 26, 2019 Pensacola News Journal article “Galvez Landing boat ramp awaits changes” by Jim Little at pnj.com.
New rules for enforcement of the 1973 Endangered Species Act will “for the first time allow economic factors to be considered when weighing what protections should be provided to vulnerable species.” US Department of the Interior Secretary David Bernhardt stated the changes would “ensure more resources can go where they will do the most good: on the ground conservation.” Critics say the changes will “speed up the extinction of many species and was done just to allow industries to expand onto land required for ecological diversity.” With the endangered Perdido Key beach mouse a consideration for construction on Perdido Key, implementation of the new rules should be followed closely. See the BBC August 12, 2019 article “Environmentalists warn Trump ‘weakening’ endangered species protections” at bbc.com and Mice and Rats” by George Harrison of the Defenders of Wildlife for discussion of the Perdido Key beach mouse and other endangered species at defenders.org.
Because of rapid turnover during the summer season, many visitors to Perdido Key are likely to be uninformed about sea turtle regulations and nesting habits. One condominium is bridging the knowledge gap with the following procedures:
1. Beach information sheets and discussions about the turtle regulations are provided with every parking pass
2. Turtle watch signage is posted on bulletin boards, elevators and beach entrances
3. A hired beach service patrols the beach every night to remove personal items left on the beach
4. When a turtle nest will soon hatch, “Lights Out” is posted on bulletin boards, elevators, and beach entrances
MGFB Properties, the owner of the Flora--Bama, has filed a lawsuit against Viacom, MTV and 495 Productions "alleging the MTV reality show 'Floribama Shore’ infringed on the bar and restaurant's trademark name." The show premiered in November 2017 despite a ceased and desist order filed by MGFB. For more on the issue, see the Pensacola News Journal August 7, 2019 article "Flora-Bama bar sues MTV over ‘Floribama Shore’ reality show” by Annie Blanks at pnj.com.
PKA and the Friends of Pensacola State Parks conducted a modest World Oceans Day event on Saturday, July 20, 2019; the original event scheduled for June 7 was cancelled because of expected thunderstorms. At the replacement event, World Oceans Day posters and art work by students from the Helen Caro Elementary School were exhibited along the central boardwalk area of the Perdido Key State Park West Use Area. It was a rainy day so beach attendance was low, but visitors attending received World Oceans Day tote bags and seemed to appreciate the posters and student art work.
PKA Board members are beginning preparations for the 2020 Perdido Key Property Owner Survey and would welcome PKA member input on the survey questions. The 2015 survey is available for review as one of the pages on this website. The 2015 survey has been an important factor in ensuring Escambia County and other decision-makers are aware of Perdido Key property owner opinion about the future of our wonderful island; we hope the new survey will be similarly useful. Please send your ideas to [email protected].
The Perdido Key Multi-Use Path (sometimes called Shared-Use Path) will provide a safe refuge for pedestrians and cyclists. The eight foot wide concrete path will be at ground level on the north side but separate from Perdido Key Drive; it will not have any boardwalks as originally conceived. Another modification to the path design extends the previously planned terminus at the base of the Theo Baars Bridge along the west side of the bridge to join the River Road pedestrian/bicycle path – a change that will allow a Perdido Key Drive/River Road loop without having to cross busy Perdido Key Drive. The west portion (from the Alabama state line to the west end of Perdido Key State Park) is fully funded for planning/engineering and construction, with construction 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, but FDOT has not yet funded construction. $960,000 of RESTORE funding has been awarded and PKA hopes additional funds can be found for construction of the entire path. Ground is expected to be broken on the path in mid-2020.
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 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.
A health advisory was issued for a portion of Pensacola Beach following two tests showing high levels of bacteria; it was later rescinded when there was “adequate reduction in bacteria levels.” A health alert was issued for Eleven Mile Creek when toxins produced by blue-green algae were detected. For more on these issues, see the September 23, 2019 Pensacola News Journal article “Casino Beach swim advisory lifted after new tests show lower bacteria levels” by Melissa Nelson Gabriel at pnj.com and the September 26, 2019 Pensacola News Journal article “After dog dies in Eleven Mile Creek, tests confirm presence of toxins, health alert issued” by Kevin Robinson at pnj.com.
Beaches have the capacity to clean themselves after an oil spill by breaking up the oil and allowing microbial organisms to degrade it. But according to Florida State University researcher Markus Huettel, oil from the 2010 BP disaster remains on area beaches as “buried tar mats” that will likely create tar balls for decades to come. For more on this issue, see the September 24, 2019 Pensacola News Journal article “Tar balls on Pensacola Beach from BP spill could last at least 30 years, study says” by Melissa Nelson Gabriel at pnj.com.
Nutria are large rodents introduced into the United States from South America for their fur. In the wild, they can severely damage marsh areas as experienced in Louisiana and elsewhere. Perdido Key has a population of nutria identified in the Lost Key development and perhaps elsewhere, with a large dead one found near the Theo Baars Bridge earlier this year. If you spot a nutria, please contact Rick O’Connor, Escambia County’s Sea Grant Representative, at [email protected].
Beach vitex is an invasive plant that can displace native vegetation such as sea oats. It has been identified on River Road and reduced twice through volunteer efforts, though more work remains to be done. Beach vitex can be identified by its attractive purple flowers. If spotted, again please contact Rick O’Connor.
Nutria photo by Christian Fischer / Beach Vitex photo by UFL
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.
Mississippi’s Gulf Coast beaches were closed for swimming in early July because of an outbreak of toxic blue-green algae (a cyanobacteria). For more on the issue, see the July 7, 2019 Monroe News-Star article “All Mississippi beaches closed as toxic algae bloom blankets the state’s coast” by Greg Hilburn at thenewsstar.com; for additional information on Mississippi beach closures, go the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality website at mdeq.ms.gov.
The August 23, 2019 “Sea Grant Notes” suggest that red tide is not currently a significant problem in Florida.
Sargassum seaweed is an important part of the oceanic food chain, often forming “acre-sized” patches floating in open water that provide food and shelter for small and large creatures. It is abundant off Florida’s Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic coasts and throughout the Caribbean. But as if 2018’s problems with blue-green algae and red tide blooms were not enough, South Florida is combating large amounts of dead sargassum on many of its Atlantic beaches and off-shore waters – leading to noxious odors and problems for boating and fishing. According to Edie Widder of the Ocean Research and Conservation Association of Fort Pierce, “although it is difficult to prove unequivocally, it seems likely that global warming and nutrient pollution are probably fanning the flames of this particular conflagration.” For more on this issue, see the Treasure Coast Newspapers May 30, 2019 article “Sargassum seaweed: The good, the bad and the ugly” by Ed Killer at tcpalm.com.
Brevard Times photo
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.
September is Microplastics Awareness Month. Microplastics are the invisible hazards of plastic pollution – defined as any plastic 5mm or smaller in size. Primary microplastic pollution can come from spilled nurdles (the primary state of all plastic products) or microbeads “used in shampoo, toothpaste, and other products to make them sparkle, or add color." Secondary microplastics come from plastic items that are broken down by the elements – with fibers from clothing and cigarette filters common sources. For more on microplastics, see the IFAS/Panhandle Outdoors article “Microplastics Awareness Month” by Rick O’Connor at nwdistrict.ifas.ufl.edu.
Perdido Key Association
PO Box 16337
Pensacola, Florida 32507
Perdido Key Association is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization; donations are tax-deductible.