Hurricane Sally Strikes Severe Blow to Perdido Key
It was supposed to be a Category 1 storm with a lot of rain, but Hurricane Sally turned into a dangerous and multimillion dollar disaster for Perdido Key and its neighbors. The storm pummeled our area beginning on Tuesday September 15 and did not end until late afternoon on Wednesday September 16. Those who rode it out will remember its howling winds and brutal rainfall and for those who lost their roofs and were otherwise in danger, the memories are likely indelible. Almost every business and residence on Perdido Key was surely affected by the storm as the debris lining Perdido Key Drive, River Road, and other island streets will attest; the loss of life that resulted was particularly tragic. Driving through Escambia County one quickly recognizes that Perdido Key was not alone in having significant damage. Looking forward, roads were re-opened as downed trees and other debris were quickly pushed aside; many received water and power relatively soon following the storm and the great number of power company vehicles in the County attests to the enormous efforts being made at restoration. We thank our first responders and utilities local and supporting for their concern and work to keep Perdido Key residents, guests and our neighbors safe and their help in moving as quickly as possible back to some sort of normalcy. Best wishes and safe passage to all.
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.
The following websites provide information about COVID 19 and its repercussions:
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.
Perdido Key Property Owner Survey Forms
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.
New Perdido Key Beach Access Moves Ahead
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.
New Crosswalk and Light at the Flora-Bama
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.”
US Treasury Approves Multi-Use Path Funding
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 Drive/Johnson Beach Road Intersection Workshop
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.
PKA Website Changes
The Perdido Key Association has changed its web host and design firm to DigitalEffex and its host platform to WordPress, one of the industry standards. The website will have the same page categories and links as the previous version but with slightly modified formats.
PKA Adopt-A-Highway Needs New Leader
The Perdido Key Association has participated in the Florida Department of Transportation’s (FDOT) Adopt-A-Highway program since June 2015. Every three months since then volunteers have picked up litter along a two mile portion of Rt. 98 from Dog Track Road to Trout Road. But new leadership for the clean-up program is needed for PKA to keep up its Adopt-A-Highway responsibilities. If interested, please contact PKA president Charles Krupnick at email@example.com.
Ground Broken for Controversial Dollar General on Gulf Beach Hwy
Land is being cleared for construction of a Dollar General on Gulf Beach Highway. The store will be in an area of mostly single family homes and has been contentious for many months, leading to various Escambia County administrative decisions and some legal action. At its March 5, 2020 meeting, however, Escambia County Commissioners voted to settle with developer Teramore Development LLC and allow the construction to take place in exchange for “1.6 acres of green space, elevated design standards and a promise to the county not to pursue the payment of attorney’s fees,” although further administrative action and other obstacles could remain. For more on the issue, see the January 23, 2020 Pensacola News Journal article “Judge vacates contempt ruling for Escambia County in Dollar General case” at https://www.pnj.com/story/news/2020/01/23/judge-ruling-vacatedescambia-county-contempt-dollar-general-case/4552175002/ and the March 6, 2020 Pensacola News Journal article “Controversial Dollar General Plan moving forward on Gulf Beach Highway after Settlement” at https://www.pnj.com/story/news/2020/03/06/escambia-county-accepts-settlement-proposed-gulf-beach-highway-dollar-general/4964724002/, both by Madison Arnold.
New Orange Beach Middle-High School Opens
Orange Beach and Baldwin County leaders officially opened the new Orange Beach Middle-High School on August 10, 2020, with the first students arriving on August 12. The school is located on Canal Road and has high school on the first floor and middle school on the second; a Performing Arts Center is under construction just east of the school. For more on this, see the Aug 26-Sept 9, 2020 Mullet Wrapper article “Having its own high school is watershed moment in Orange Beach history” by Marc D. Anderson at https://bit.ly/3h19KFD
Nature Focused Home Activities
Escambia County Sea Grant Representative Rick O’Connor has made home activities and lessons available on a variety of nature topics, along with a continuing theme of monarch butterfly development. Here are lessons on “Water,” “Backyard Habitat,” “Invasive Species,” and “Local Wildlife:
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
Inputs to OLF-8
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.
Innerarity Point Park Open – Motorboat Exclusion Zone May Follow
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.
Pensacola Pass Inlet Plan and Beach Mouse Films
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.
E-scooters and Micro-mobility Vehicles in the News
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.
Visit Local Museums Online
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
Private Rosamond Johnson Ceremony Rescheduled
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.
World Oceans Day 2020
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 30×30. 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.
Successful International Coastal Cleanup Day
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.
PKA Annual Membership Meeting
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.
NOTES ON THE ENVIRONMENT
Tons of Microplastics in Atlantic Ocean
A new study points to much larger quantities of microplastics in the Atlantic Ocean than previous estimates. Microplastics are any plastic particles less than 5mm and may come from specific use in clothing, cosmetics or industry or from the breakdown of larger plastic items, such as packaging material. The UK National Oceanographic Centre study estimates 12-21 million tons of microplastics in the Atlantic Ocean, “enough to fully load almost 1,000 container ships;” some measurements were as high as “7,000 particles per cubic meter of seawater.” As an interesting aside, according to Susannah Bleakley who helps coordinate UK beach cleanups: “We now find more disposable masks than plastic bags.” For more on the issue, see the August 18, 2020 BBC.com article “Microplastic in Atlantic Ocean ‘could weigh 21 million tones’” by Victoria Gill at https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-53786555.
Beach Vitex Going to Seed
Escambia County Sea Grant representative Rick O’Connor reminds us that beach vitex is a Category 1 invasive plan and a state noxious weed. It will soon be going from flower to hardy and profuse black seeds that can propagate by land and sea. If beach vitex is on your property, consider removing and destroying the seeds; if you would like the plant removed, contact Rick O’Connor at firstname.lastname@example.org. Drawn from August 28 2020 “Sea Grant Notes” at http://blogs.ifas.ufl.edu/escambiaco/2020/08/28/sea-grant-notes-aug-28-2020/.
First Turtle Hatchlings
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.
Python Captures Reach 5,000
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.
Can the Oceans by Saved?
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.
Gulf Frontal Watershed Management Plan
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.
Local Air and Water Quality
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..