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.
Hurricane Season officially begins on June 1, but the threat from Subtropical Storm Alberto heralded an early beginning. All of us on or near the Gulf Coast are well advised to take stock of preparations for these dangerous storms. Resources from Escambia County include the web pages "Tropical Storms and Hurricanes” with links to other resources and the “Know Your Zone” site at myescambia.com. Another local resource is the May 27, 2018 “2018 Hurricane Guide” published by the Pensacola News Journal. John Dosh - the Emergency Management Manager of Escambia County – has provided other comments on hurricane season actions. For example, if ordered to evacuate, he suggested that people stay as close to home as it is safe to do so to avoid highway congestion, but noting that Escambia County's emergency shelters are public schools and provide very little in the way of comfort – serving as "lifeboats" not "love-boats." He also pointed out that storm surge is unique to each storm and can vary greatly with a storm’s track.
Mr. Dosh pointed out that emergency management procedures for Escambia County do not use the terms voluntary or mandatory evacuation. When an evacuation order is issued, however, the expectation is that people will leave that zone. During the landfall of Hurricane Nate in 2017, Evacuation Zone A – which included Perdido Key – was placed under an evacuation order but many chose not to leave the Key. We were fortunate the hurricane did not have a great impact on people and property.
Approximately 50 people attended the May 24, 2018 FDOT “open house” presentation at the Perdido Key Community Center on progress toward the Perdido Key Shared-Use Path (known earlier as “Multi-Use Path). The 8 foot wide path will run along the north side of Perdido Key Drive (S.R. 292), with design work divided between a western portion from the Alabama border to the west end of the Perdido Key State Park and eastern portion from the west end of the Park to Gongora Drive. Only the western portion is currently funded, though a request for partial RESTORE (BP penalty) funding has been requested. Maps and drawings of current plans were on display and FDOT personnel available to answer questions about the path.
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.
On May 5, 2018, a large audience was privileged to attend the yearly Remembrance Ceremony honoring Korean War hero Rosamond Johnson. The event was held under wonderful weather at the beautiful location that bears his name, Johnson Beach at the Perdido Key Area of the Gulf Island’s National Seashore. Featured speaker Superintendent Dan Brown of the National Seashore discussed Rosamond Johnson, the background of Johnson Beach, and a number of additional topics. Other speakers, including members of Rosamond Johnson’s family, highlighted the ceremony.
The May 8, 2018 Pensacola News Journal article “Is Perdido Key running out of public beachfront? One commissioner says yes and suggests remedy” by Melissa Nelson Gabriel discussed Commissioner Doug Underhill’s work with Escambia County planners on the possibility of using BP restitution money to purchase beach front property to provide additional public beach access. The article noted that Perdido Key seemed to be “getting busier all the time” and the current real estate market was strong – suggesting a timely purchase was essential. Underhill said “We will use the BP money to procure forever beach access for the people of Escambia County." Commissioner Jeff Bergosh said he supported more public access to Perdido Key beaches: "It is needed. Unless you own a condo out there, a lot of the beach is off limits, it is private property." For more on the issue, go to pnj.com.
A 29 year old bicyclist was struck and killed by a vehicle along Perdido Key Drive near Gongora Drive late Wednesday, March 14, 2018. An investigation of the accident is ongoing. See the March 15, 2018 Pensacola News Journal article “29 year old bicyclist killed in Perdido Key crash” for more on the accident at pnj.com.
At its April 11, 2018 meeting, the Florida-Alabama TPO (Transportation Planning Organization) authorized that a letter be sent to the Florida Department of Transportation to conduct a “bicycle/pedestrian safety analysis on the Theo Baars Bridge…”
West Florida Hospital’s free-standing emergency facility at Rt. 98 and Blue Angel Parkway had its grand opening on April 17, 2018. Called the Perdido Bay ER, the 24-hour facility has 11 beds, a dedicated trauma room, diagnostic imaging equipment and laboratory capabilities. For more on the facility, go to westfloridahospital.com.
Beach Vitex on Perdido Key – Beach Vitex is an invasive species that can crowd out native plants. It has been a particular concern in beach areas of the Carolinas and is now working its way into Florida. For the first time, as far as PKA is aware, it has been found on Perdido Key. The plant provides ground cover and has woody runners and purple flowers. If detected, please contact the Escambia County Sea Grant Representative Rick O’Connor at [email protected] for assistance in identification and removal. See the March 2, 2017 University of Florida IFAS Extension article “Trying to Stay Ahead of Beach Vitex” by Rick O’Connor for more information.
Perdido Key was recognized as one of MSN.com’s “40 Most Underrated Small Towns in America” because it has: “Everything you love about the state in general, nice weather, pristine beaches and water, wildlife preserve, unspoiled parks, etc. – you find in Perdido Key, minus the crowds,” wrote Hristina Byrnes. See the April 12, 2018 Pensacola News Journal article ”Perdido Key dubbed one of most underrated small towns in American” by Jake Newby for more on this issue at pnj.com.
And Florida placed 11 cities in the US News & World Report “Top 125” cities to live in the United States – Pensacola ranked 53! See the April 19, 2018 Pensacola News Journal article “Pensacola makes U.S. News & World Report ‘Top 125’ cities to live in the U.S.” for more information at pnj.com.
On February 1, 2018, the Escambia County Board of County Commissioners approved District 2 Commissioner Doug Underhill’s request to set aside funds for the “Pensacola Pass Inlet Management Plan.” The plan could lead to a policy where the sand dredged from the Pensacola Harbor channel – which is required periodically to keep the channel navigable for large ships – would be dumped on the beaches of the Perdido Key Area of the Gulf Islands National Seashore instead of offshore as is the current practice. With the general westerly migration of sand in the region, Perdido Key beaches west of the National Seashore would also benefit from the project.
With funding for a study assigned (more is needed from the state), putting substance on the proposal will begin with meetings of various stake holders, such as the National Seashore, Navy Installations Command, Army Corps of Engineers, and the Port of Pensacola – PKA may also be invited to participate. When implemented, Perdido Key beaches will not quickly leave the critically eroded status so concerns for further erosion and from destructive storms will remain, but hopefully in the coming year’s progress will be made.
In keeping with its education purpose, the Perdido Key Association contributed to an upgrade of the interpretive wayside panels near the Perdido Key Discovery Trail at the Perdido Key Area of the Gulf Islands National Seashore (Johnson Beach). PKA Director Joe Stone worked closely with Gulf Island National Seashore Visual Information Specialist Brent Everett in helping to bring the project to fruition. The December 8, 2017 “Gulf Islands News” release stated (in part):
Several interpretive wayside panels were recently upgraded and installed at the national seashore’s Perdido Key Area thanks to the Perdido Key Association (PKA). The wayside panels and some associated hardware had weathered badly since it was first installed. The PKA approached the National Park Service earlier this year to provide financial support for the upgrade. ‘We are grateful to the Perdido Key Association for their generous donation in support of the national seashore,” said Superintendent Dan Brown. “Interpretive wayside panels are a critical tool of the National Park Service to share the important stories of the national seashore.” At Perdido Key these waysides interpret the natural beauty and dynamic wildlife of the area, provide trail guidance and safety reminders, and tell the story of important figures like Rosamond Johnson.
The September 16 cleanup of Perdido Key beaches and river front was a great success! With good weather helping out, about 50 volunteers spent their Saturday mornings picking up cigarette butts, plastic bags, paper cups, and other material – some hard to identify – that littered our beautiful waterfront. The beaches were not in too bad a shape, but the grooming they received will be appreciated by all who enjoy these wonderful assets. In addition, two kayaks and a jon boat gathered trash from the marshy Old River side of Perdido Key. The cleanup was cosponsored by the Perdido Key Association, the Friends of Pensacola State Parks, and Florida State Park rangers from Big Lagoon/Perdido Key State Park. The quantity and type of trash collected will be reported to the Ocean Conservancy, the coordinating body for this international event, and will become part of the International Coastal Cleanup Day annual report. Thanks to all who helped make the cleanup a noteworthy environmental event for Perdido Key.
The Perdido Key Association held its 2018 Annual Membership Meeting on Saturday, February 24, 2018 at the Eden Condominium on Perdido Key. Featured speaker Steve Hayes, President of “Visit Pensacola,” discussed the many tourist marketing initiatives made by his organization and noted that successful tourism promotion required evaluating and effectively using data on visitor preferences and activities. He indicated that Perdido Key should strive for a high quality visitor experience and not necessarily for increasing the number of tourists. With new air routes and greater recognition of the area’s many attractions, the future of tourism in the Pensacola region seemed bright.
District 2 Commissioner Doug Underhill followed and addressed several issues affecting Perdido Key, such as the Helipad – back in operation; Perdido Key Multi-Use Path – design work in progress and construction to begin in the months ahead; 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; Perdido Key Dune Restoration Project – sea oat and other plantings should begin in a few weeks; and, underground utilities on Perdido Key – likely only through MSBU (Municipal Service Benefit Unit) funding.
The speakers’ presentations and responses to questions were much appreciated by the audience. PKA president Charles Krupnick then reported on the 2017 PKA initiatives, including International Coastal Cleanup Day and World Oceans Day events at Perdido Key State Park and the Association’s funding of upgrade to three “interpretive wayside panels” at the Perdido Key Area of the Gulf Islands National Seashore. An unapproved version of the meeting minutes is posted on the Archive page of this website.