News

Perdido Key State Park West Use Area Reopened!

 

The Perdido Key State Park West Use Area reopened on March 19, 2021 and significantly increased the parking space and beach access available for public use. Both East and West Use Areas of Perdido Key State Park have been closed since Hurricane Sally in September 2020 and require substantial infrastructure repair, including restrooms and dune walkovers to the beach. The West Use Area was prepared for temporary use with portable restroom facilities and mats over sand to access the beachfront. On several outings, volunteers let by State Park Rangers and the Friends of Pensacola State Parks helped remove debris remaining from the demolition of damaged park infrastructure. As promulgated by Escambia County and the office of Florida Representative Alex Andrade:

The Division of Recreation and Parks (DRP) anticipates the West day use area of Perdido Key State Park will open with temporary access and portable restrooms by Friday, March 19; and the East and West day use areas of the park will be fully open by the end of July 2021. The DRP plans to phase the construction to allow for one of the day use areas to remain open during construction. The project will include repairs to the boardwalks, shelters and restrooms on both the East and West day use areas.

The other two Florida State Parks in the Pensacola area are also partially open: Tarkiln Bayou State Park trails are open on the west side of Bauer Road and Big Lagoon State Park camping and boat launch areas are open, but pavilions and trails remain closed.

Multi-Use Path Construction Begun!

 

The long awaited construction of the Perdido Key Multi-Use Path has finally begun with ground being broken just west of Perdido Key State Park and heading for the Florida-Alabama state line. Design and engineering are still being completed for the eastern portion through the State Park and passed the west side of the Theo Baars Bridge to River Road. Construction followed Escambia County Board of County Commissioners approval of agreements with Chavers Construction, Inc. and DRMP, at the Board’s January 21, 2021 meeting.

Important Perdido Key Projects open for Public Comment!!

 

Perdido Key could obtain two large RESTORE grants to improve its beachfront and natural habitat (RESTORE is one of the Deepwater Horizon penalty funds). Please review and consider commenting on the proposed projects prior to March 29, 2021, the end of the comment period.

  1. The first is designed to protect the environment and wildlife at the Perdido Key Area of Gulf Islands National Seashore and is called “Johnson Beach Access Management and Habitat Protection”; at $3,200,000, among other changes at the park it will alter parking arrangements from roadside to newly constructed designated parking areas off the beach road.
  2. The second is called “Perdido Key Sediment Placement;” at $6,773,000, it would help fund the Pensacola Pass Inlet Management Plan for placing sand dredged from Pensacola Pass onto Johnson Beach where the east to west sand movement will help replenish sand eroded from all Perdido Key beaches.

To review the proposals, go to the Florida Trustee Implementation Group’s Draft Restoration Plan 2 and Environmental Assessment document. The PDF text has 452 pages with the two Perdido Key proposals on pages 41 through 44 (2-13 through 2-16 as numbered in the document).

A webinar on the plan with be held Thursday, March 11, 2021 at 4:00pm Central Time. To register, go to https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/4537956480105991181. After registering, participants will receive a confirmation email with instructions for joining the webinar.

Comments on the proposals can be made online, by mail, or at the public webinar.

Online: https://parkplanning.nps.gov/FLTIGRP2

By mail:
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
P.O. Box 29649 Atlanta, GA 30345

Blue Angels back Home!

 

Flying F-18 Super Hornets for the first time, the Blue Angels returned to the Pensacola area and NAS Pensacola on Sunday March 14, 2021 with a welcome flyover. The team’s 2021 schedule is available at https://www.blueangels.navy.mil/assets/docs/schedules/show-2021.pdf.

Johnson Beach Update

 

Gulf Islands National Seashore, including its Perdido Key Area (Johnson Beach), suffered $4.5 million of damage from Hurricane Sally and will not be getting any extra funding from Congress to make repairs. $2 million will be required for road repairs and $1.2 million for repair of the ferry pier. At Johnson Beach, the pavilion parking area near the entrance is open, but vehicle access beyond the pavilion is not allowed because of sand and infrastructure concerns. Pedestrian and cyclist, however, can use the road. Park officials expect vehicle access will be restored within a few weeks though parking is likely to be restricted. Infrastructure repair will begin in late-summer 2021. For more a park damage and restoration, see the December 3, 2020 article “Fort Pickens will reopen Saturday, almost three months after Hurricane Sally” by Madison Arnold at https://www.pnj.com/story/news/2020/12/03/fort-pickens-reopen-saturday-three-months-after-hurricane-sally/3812982001/.

Shorebird Nesting Concerns on Perdido Key Beaches

 

Shorebird nesting on Perdido Key is endangered because many boardwalk dune crossovers were destroyed by Hurricane Sally in September 2020. According to Caroline Stahala, the Western Panhandle shorebird program manager at the Audubon Society: “The one thing about these birds – seabirds or shorebirds – is that they lay their eggs right on the sand and they’re camouflaged, so you aren’t going to see these eggs but you’ll step on them.” She urges beach visitors to “take notice of signage, walk only in designated areas and be cognizant of visible activity such as mating behavior that mean there could be nest and eggs around.” For more on seabird nesting, see the March 2, 2021 Pensacola News Journal article “Shorebirds need dunes to nest, but beachgoers are walking over them due to Sally damage” by Emma Kennedy at https://www.pnj.com/story/news/2021/03/02/perdido-key-shorebird-nests-trampled-due-hurricane-sally-damage/6824159002/.

Short-term Rentals Issue Returns

 

The Florida legislature is again considering placing short-term rentals of property under state regulations instead of allowing local governments to retain control. Short-term rentals can provide income for some but may also be disruptive to residential neighborhoods and are sometimes restricted by county or city government. In 2011, the Florida legislature banned cities and counties from adopting any new vacation rental rules but 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.” 2020 saw proposed legislation to remove local control, but was never pursued into law. In 2021, House Bill 219 is making its way through the legislative process and would “prohibit local governments from creating laws or ordinances about short-term rentals and it would require online platforms like VRBO or Airbnb to collect certain taxes and data on its properties.” Escambia District 2 Commissioner Doug Underhill stated “There’s no good reason to support that…”; “Local government knows best what the impact on a local community could be with rentals.” State Representative Alex Andrade favors the bill noting the “argument for state regulation is one of upholding property rights and instituting accountability.” A number of proposals have followed to modify House Bill 219, leading Diaz to note the legislation was “clearly a work in progress.” For more on this issue, see the March 3, 2021 Pensacola News Journal article “Opponents of short-term vacation rental bill fear it would strip local control” by Emma Kennedy at https://www.pnj.com/story/news/local/2021/03/03/opponents-short-term-rental-bill-fear-would-strip-local-control/6886833002/ and the March 12, 2021 News Service of Florida article “Vacation rental plan ‘clearly a work in progress’ in Florida legislature” at https://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/politics/fl-ne-florida-vacation-rental-bill-overhaul-20210312-jqvc2j35w5gi7fvbqkm35dwa6u-story.html.

Crosswalk Signal Repairs

 

The five crosswalks on Perdido Key Drive were updated in April 2020 with improved “pedestrian-activated flashing in-roadway lights, a bidirectional pedestrian-activated flashing LED crossing sign, a ‘Pedestrian Crossing Ahead’ sign and a ‘Pedestrian Crossing Ahead’ pavement message.” Hurricane Sally destroyed much of the improved installations in September 2020. At its March 4, 2021 meeting, the Escambia County Board of County Commissioners approved the purchase of material necessary to move forward with repair of the crosswalks prior to the 2021 beach/tourist season. Information on the 2020 upgrade drawn from the April 13, 2020 Escambia County news article “Perdido Key Drive Pedestrian Crossing Upgrade Project Completed.”

OLF-8 Agreement

 

OLF-8 is the 640 acre former Navy Outlying Field 8 adjacent to the Navy Federal Credit Union complex in the Beulah area of western Escambia County purchased by the County in January 2019. Future use of the property has been debated for many months over whether it should be predominantly a commerce/industry park or a more mixed used area with substantial commercial, residential, and public services in addition to commerce/industry. The topic has been addressed extensively in recent Board of County Commissioners Public Forums as well as webinars from architectural firm DPZ selected to create master plan alternatives for OLF-8. At a March 11, 2021 meeting, the Escambia County Board of County Commissioners approved what has been referred to as a “hybrid plan” for mixed use of the property, with “a tentative division of 271 acres for commercial and industrial; 47 acres for mixed-use for both residential and retail; 45 acres for public amenities such as a post office, school, day care and trails; and 61 acres for other residential such as multi-family units, duplexes and townhouses.” The next phase of the project will involve “zoning and density” studies over the next few months. For more on the OLF-8 decision, go to the March 11, 2021 Pensacola News Journal article “OLF-8 hybrid plan overcomes major hurdle, proceeds to zoning phase” by Emma Kennedy at https://www.pnj.com/story/news/2021/03/11/olf-8-hybrid-plan-overcomes-major-hurdle-proceeds-zoning-phase/4647125001/.

How to make beaches more accessible to disabled people?

 

Escambia County has assigned $300,000 in RESTORE funding (BP penalty funds) to improve access for people with various disabilities to local beaches. Among access concerns are uneven walking surfaces and beach boardwalk dune walkovers covered with sand. A recent “barrier assessment” and webinar by engineering firm Baskerville-Donovan helped identify concerns and “basic compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.” Public ideas for improvements and other comments can be sent to pns-gtm@baskerville-donovan.com or mposner@mtescambia.com. For more on the issue, see the March 12, 2021 Pensacola News Journal article “What would make Pensacola Beach more accessible for people with disabilities?” by Emma Kennedy at https://www.pnj.com/story/news/local/2021/03/12/escambia-county-spend-300-k-pensacola-beach-accessible-disabilities/4647113001/.

Chamber Virtual Job Fair

 

The Perdido Key Chamber of Commerce will host a Virtual Job Fair from March 15 to April 15, 2021. As announced in the Chamber’s Weekly Update: “This virtual job fair will be marketed through several social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and Google”; job openings can be posted by Chamber members through the Member Information Center (MIC). For more information contact the Chamber at 850-492-4660 or info@perdidochamber.com.

Gulf State Park Pier Reopened

 

Good news! 725 feet of the Gulf State Park Pier near the Orange Beach/Gulf Shores border has reopened for fishermen and sightseers. A large section near the end of pier octagon must still be replaced, but concessions and comfort stations are back in operation. Hours of operation are 6 AM until 9 PM and normal pier fees apply; an occupancy limit of 200 is in place as a COVID-19 safety precaution. For more on the Pier, go to the January 29, 2021 Gulf State Park Press Release “Iconic Landmark, Gulf State Park Pier, Ready to Reopen” at https://www.alapark.com/sites/default/files/2021-01/Press%20Release_Gulf%20State%20Park%20Pier%20Reopening.V2.pdf.

Sunday Alcohol Sales

 

The Escambia County Board of County Commissioners has decided to lift the 2:30 AM to 1 PM ban on Sunday alcohol sales, though alcohol sales will remain restricted every day from 2:30 AM until 6 AM. For more on the issue, go to the February 18, 2021 Pensacola News Journal article “Escambia County Commission votes to end Sunday alcohol sales ban” by Jim Little at https://www.pnj.com/story/news/2021/02/18/escambia-county-commission-votes-end-sunday-alcohol-sales-ban/4489011001/

Perdido Key Property Owner Survey Posted!

 

The 2020 Perdido Key Property Owner Survey results have been mailed to all PKA members. They are also posted on the “Owner Survey” page of the PKA website.

“Perdido Precinct” Sheriff’s Office Reopening

 

A good crowd was on hand for the February 6, 2021 reopening of the “Perdido Precinct” substation of the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office at 12950 Gulf Beach Highway, with another substation opening in Moleno on February 20, 2021. Sheriff Chip Simmons presided at the ceremony and has stated: “We want to make sure that the people of Perdido and the people of the Molino area have access to a substation in the precinct and a lieutenant who knows their areas…” “We are going to have the same deputies work the same areas on a permanent basis [Lt. Tony Tampary will supervise the Perdido Precinct]…” The Perdido Precinct substation will be a base of operations for deputies but is not expected to be permanently manned. For more on the reopening, see the February 8, 2021 Pensacola News Journal article “ECSO reopens substation in Perdido Key, station in Molino to follow soon” by Colin Warren-Hicks at https://www.pnj.com/story/news/crime/2021/02/08/ecso-reopens-substation-perdido-key-molino-station-opening-soon/4435112001/.

Solar Windmill coming to Perdido Key

 

The Escambia County Board of County Commissioner’s (BOCC) agreed to purchase a unique wind and solar powered bench centerpiece for the expected “Heritage Park” on the east side of the Perdido Key Visitors Center at 1550 Perdido Key Drive. As stated in the February 4, 2021 BOCC meeting agenda:

The EnergiPlant Solar Windmill is an entirely free-standing nano-grid structure that draws on solar and wind energy to produce power capable of charging usb-enabled devices, with seating and space for advertisements and/or other messaging. Installation of the solar windmill will provide a demonstration of alternative energy sources at the Perdido Key Community Center, consistent with the future use of the Community Center as an environmental learning center. The installation will also accommodate cyclists and pedestrians traveling along existing infrastructure and the future Perdido Key Multi-Use Path, providing a rest area and amenity access at the existing Perdido Key Visitor Center. This location also supports pedestrian/cyclist access to Perdido Key State Park.

For more information on the project, go to BOCC meeting Agenda 2021-1524 at https://civicclerk.blob.core.windows.net/stream/ESCAMBIACOFL/aebf4747-e07d-40da-94b0-d0c88709c210.pdf?sv=2015-12-11&sr=b&sig=aP1yV%2FGnnLcA7QLSo5HYMIY2S3ZR7b5bEowKzZLTWLE%3D&st=2021-02-12T20%3A28%3A16Z&se=2022-02-12T20%3A33%3A16Z&sp=r; for more on the Solar Windmill including the photo used in this entry, go to the June 02, 2017 University of California San Diego Center for Energy Research (CER) article “New EnergiPlant Wind Turbine Provides Power and Public Space” at https://cer.ucsd.edu/_news-events-articles/2017/news-ESW-wind-turbine-dedication.html.

Photo by: UCSC Photo

Big Lagoon State Park Activities

 

With better weather and cleanup after Hurricane Sally well along, Big Lagoon State Park is hosting a number of continuing activities this spring. These include “Birding Guided Walks” beginning at 8:30 AM and “Yoga & Meditation” beginning at 10 AM, both on Saturdays. The activities meet at the Boat Ramp area and are free, but require regular park admission or camping. Dress appropriately and maintain social distancing for both; for birdings bring binoculars though a few will be available on site; for yoga, bring your mat and water bottle.

The Escambia Amateur Astronomers Association will host stargazing at sunset in the Boat Ramp parking lot this spring. The Saturday events will be on March 6 and 20, April 3 and 17, May 1 and 15 – with a reminder that May 15 is International Astronomy Day. And again, please observe COVID-19 protocols for masks and social distancing.

Bands on the Beach for 2021

 

The Santa Rosa Island Authority has announced the schedule for 2021 “Bands on Beach” performances at Casino Beach on Pensacola Beach. Performances are given every Tuesday evening from April 6 until October 26. For more on the free concerts, see the March 1, 2021 Pensacola News Journal article “Bands on the Beach releases full 2021 artist lineup and schedule” by Jake Newby at https://www.pnj.com/story/news/2021/03/01/bands-beach-2021-schedule-musicians-released-pensacola/6868687002/.

Gulf Power Bills after Hurricane Sally?

 

Panhandle electric power distribution had major damage from Hurricane Sally inflating costs for Gulf Power, but credits earned from early retirement of coal generation could keep costs down. For more on this issue, see the February 22, 2021 Pensacola News Journal article “Gulf Power customers could be impacted by Hurricane Sally costs, Plant Christ closing” by the News Service of Florida at

https://www.pnj.com/story/news/2021/02/22/gulf-power-customers-could-foot-206-million-bill-hurricane-sally-costs/4548251001/.

10 Digit Dialing on the way!

 

The 850 area code is running out of available numbers so at some point in the near future, additional lines may be assigned a 448 area code. Once this begins, users will need to begin local calls with the 850 or 448 area codes. For more on this issue, see the February 19, 2021 Tallahassee Democrat article “Mandatory 10-digit dialing in Florida’s 850 area code postponed to May” at https://www.tallahassee.com/story/news/2021/02/19/mandatory-10-digit-dialing-north-florida-850-area-code-begins-may-phone-calls-448-overlay/4501433001/.

Beach Mouse Film well received

 

As reported by the Perdido Key Area Chamber of Commerce, the film “Little Beach Mouse from the South” about the Perdido Key beach mouse was named “Best Education” film at the Wildlife Conservation Film Festival in October and was a finalist for best documentary short at the Central Florida Film Festival. To watch the film go to https://www.intonaturefilms.org/project/little-beach-mouse-from-the-south/.

Pelicans Can!

 

On a wintry day on a Perdido Key beach, this brown pelican had no problem snuggling up to the camera. Though warmer days have attracted quite a few beach goers, the colder ones belong to isolated fishermen, fitness walkers, and the birds.

Photo by: Connie Walker

Proposal for Drilling Ban Extension

 

Florida Senators Rick Scott and Marco Rubio have reintroduced the “Florida Shores Protection and Fairness Act” to Congress. “The bill would extend the moratorium on oil and gas drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico for 10 years beyond its currently scheduled expiration June 30, 2022.” For more on the issue, see the January 22, 2021 Pensacola News Journal article “Rubio, Scott renew push to extend Gulf drilling ban” at https://www.pnj.com/story/news/2021/01/22/rubio-scott-push-extend-oil-and-gas-drilling-ban-gulf-mexico/6680857002/. 

Kudos for Pensacola

 

Pensacola, the surrounding area, and some of its businesses made a number of “best of” lists in 2020. These included Mr. Pollo Pensacola (9th Street) on Yelp’s top 100 restaurants to try, Pensacola Beach as 4th on Tripadvisor’s “Top 25 beaches in the United States,” Pensacola as a “top 25 US city to retire to,” Restaurant Iron on OpenTable’s “100 most romantic” list, and Pensacola as 31st “Best Small City” in America. For more on local recognition, see the December 29, 2020 Pensacola News Journal article “Pensacola love: Here are the national ‘best of lists’ Pensacola cracked in 2020” by Jake Newby https://www.pnj.com/story/news/2020/12/29/pensacola-love-pensacola-makes-multiple-national-best-of-lists-2020/4061535001/.

Become a Volunteer at Big Lagoon State Park!

 

Park Rangers at Big Lagoon State Park are looking for help with various park functions. Volunteers are needed as “Big Lagoon Ranger Station Assistants” to assist with services such as checking in visitors and selling park passes and Friends of Pensacola State Parks merchandise. Other volunteers are needed as “Campground Host” to help keep the park campgrounds safe and trash-free, clean restrooms and showers and provide campers with information about camp facilities. More information about the positions is available from Big Lagoon State Park at 850 492-1595.

Hurricane Sally Strikes Severe Blow to Perdido Key

 

It was supposed to be a Category 1 storm with lots of rain, but Hurricane Sally turned into a dangerous and multimillion dollar disaster for Perdido Key and its neighbors. The storm pummeled the 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 attests; some homes were totally destroyed. Driving through Escambia County one quickly recognizes that Perdido Key was not alone in having significant damage. The loss of life was particularly tragic.

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 attested to the enormous efforts made at restoration. Refuse collection from the storm has been equally impressive and continues as shown by the enormous mound of mulch in the field across from the Naval Hospital on Rt. 98 from debris brought by a steady stream of two-trailer trucks. We thank our first responders, utilities and all supporting personnel for their concern and work to keep Perdido Key and all Escambia County residents safe and their help in moving as quickly as possible back to some sort of normalcy. Safe passage to all.

Perdido Key Association - Hurricane Sally

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.

Jaco’s Coming to Perdido Key Area

 

The owner of Jaco’s Bayfront Bar & Grill near the Palafox Pier Marina in downtown Pensacola is purchasing the former Triggers Restaurant and Wolf Bay Lounge on Gulf Beach Highway. The new restaurant will “adopt much of the downtown location’s food and drink menu, but plans to add a few more seafood dishes to cater to tourist-friendly Perdido Key.” For more on the issue, see the December 30, 2020 Pensacola News Journal article Jaco’s Bayfront Bar & Grill plans to open second location in Perdido Key in 2021” by Jake Newby at https://www.pnj.com/story/news/2020/12/30/jacos-bayfront-bar-grille-open-new-perdido-key-location-2021/4072763001/.  

Johnson Beach Road Roundabout to Designers

Escambia County has begun the design process for construction of a roundabout at the Perdido Key Drive/Johnson Beach Road intersection. This will take about nine months followed by construction expected after the 2021 summer vacation season. Escambia County District 2 Commissioner Doug Underhill noted: “So the traffic circle has the added benefit of slowing down traffic and sort of bookmarking the commercial core of Perdido Key so that people slow down, take it a little safer through there. Nobody wants to have their vacation end with a trip to the hospital.” For more on the issue, see the November 4, 2020 Pensacola News Journal article “Roundabout selected as Perdido Key intersection solution, now under design process” by Madison Arnold at https://www.pnj.com/story/news/2020/11/04/roundabout-selected-perdido-key-intersection-solution-under-design-process/6163188002/.

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.

2021 PKA Annual Membership Meeting

 

The 2021 PKA Annual Membership Meeting was held Saturday, February 27, 2021 at the Eden Condominium – the first Perdido Key Association meeting with both in-person and remote Zoom attendance. The featured speaker was Escambia County District 2 Commissioner Doug Underhill who focused on results from the 2020 Perdido Key Property Owner Survey, including development, traffic, wildlife and environment, and governing concerns. He also fielded questions from attendees, including beachfront access and erosion issues. PKA president Charles Krupnick followed with updates on the PKA budget, past and current Association initiatives and damage to area beach parks from Hurricane Sally. Approximately 35 people participated in the meeting in-person and a similar number attended online. The Eden staff provided superior support, including COVID-19 precautions and assisting with Zoom preparations and presentation.

NOTES ON THE ENVIRONMENT

Threats to Seagrass but also Success

Seagrass is “grass” that has migrated from land to the sea over time; it is different from seaweed which is “algae.” A healthy bed of seagrass begins the long chain of life from small creatures clinging to the blades and on to swarms of small fish providing nutrition for more predatory fish and seabirds to make a classic seaside habitat. Measurements of seagrass health have been ongoing for the last few years in the Pensacola and Perdido Key areas as part of a University of West Florida study. To learn more about seagrass, see the December 2020 Smithsonian Magazine article “Prairies of the Sea” by Katherine Harmon Courage at https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/seagrass-ocean-secret-weapon-climate-change-180976235/  and the October 13, 2020  University of Virginia UVA Today article “Some Good News: Seagrass Restored to Eastern Shore Bays is Flourishing” by Fariss Samarrai at https://news.virginia.edu/content/some-good-news-seagrass-restored-eastern-shore-bays-flourishing?utm_source=UVAResearchDigest&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=UVAResearchDigest_12-20

Florida Panthers “at Risk”

Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission officials announced that at least 20 Florida panthers died in 2020, all but one because of interaction with people and mostly from vehicle collisions. This is a lower count than recent years but probably not good news since it suggests there are fewer panthers left. An estimated 120 to 230 adult panthers may remain in the wild with the species survival threatened largely by development. For more on this issues, see the December 28, 2020 Association Press article “Wildlife Officials: 20 Florida Panthers Killed This Year” at https://apnews.com/article/wildlife-florida-coronavirus-pandemic-environment-st-petersburg-e1eb45baf6ce9ff13b6e9f5f6a32dca5.

 

Photo By: FWS Photo by Larry W. Richardson

Manatee Appreciation Day is Wednesday, March 31!

Manatee Appreciation Day is Wednesday, March 31, and comes at a time of growing concern for Florida’s wonderful manatees. At least 317 manatee deaths have occurred in the first two months of 2021, much more that the past five year average of 100 deaths a year. According to director of the Save the Manatee Club Pat Rose: “It looks like we have a substantial number of manatees that are starving.” Poor water quality from stormwater runoff leading to algae blooms and loss of sea grass may be responsible. For more on the issue, see the February 28, 2021 Fort Myers News-Press article “Florida manatees are dying in droves this year. Experts blame poor water quality, starvation” by Chad Gillis at https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2021/02/27/florida-manatee-deaths-way-up-2021-experts-blame-water-quality/6817814002/; for more information on Manatee Appreciation Day, go to https://nationaldaycalendar.com/manatee-appreciation-day-last-wednesday-in-march/.

 

Jellyfish to Inherit the Earth?

The Ocean Conservancy points out the jellyfish have survived for over 500 million years and are well adopted for a warming ocean with increased salinity and acidity. “A warming ocean means an ocean with more jellies and fewer turtles, fish and marine mammals.” For more on jellyfish and changes in the oceans, go to the Ocean Conservancy article “Four Ways to Channel your Inner Jellyfish when times get Hard” by Cody Sullivan at https://oceanconservancy.org/blog/2021/03/09/4-ways-channel-inner-jellyfish-times-get-hard/.

 

Photo By: NOAA Photo