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.
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.
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.
The National Park Service expects to begin ferry service from downtown Pensacola to Pensacola Beach and Ft. Pickens on May 18, 2018. Gulf Coast Maritime Services, Inc., has been selected to operate the “Turtle Runner” and “Pelican Perch,” the two 150 passenger ferries that will provide at least three loops of service each day. Pricing and scheduling are yet to be announced. See the March 20, 2018 Pensacola News Journal article “National Park Service picks ferry operator, hopes to start service May 18” for more on the issue at pnj.com.
Visit Pensacola, our region’s DMO (Destination Marketing Organization) has launched a “Tourism Works” campaign to publicize the positive effects of tourism on the area. Among other benefits, Visit Pensacola officials point out that 41% of all taxes and 46% of all property taxes collected in Escambia County can be attributed to tourism. Visitors are expected to spend over $1 billion in the area by 2022 or 2023. The campaign comes at a time when County Commissioners are debating how to spend tourism tax revenue. Steve Hayes, president of Visit Pensacola, was the featured speaker at the PKA Annual Membership Meeting in February 2018. See the March 22, 2018 Pensacola News Journal article “Visit Pensacola launches new ‘Tourism Works’ campaign to tout the industry’s impact on economy” by Jason Nicholson for more on the issue at pnj.com.
Two Manatees Die in Regional Waters – Manatees have been seen in Northwest Florida waters in recent months. According to Sea Grant representative Rick O’Connor: “These once rare animals in the panhandle are now being found year round, and sometimes in groups.” Regrettably, two dead manatees were discovered in recent weeks, one in Okaloosa County and the other in Escambia County – probably victims of recent cold weather. The presence of manatee in our region warrants additional caution by all who use the same waterways as these gentle giants. For more on this issue, see Rick O’Connor’s article “Two Manatees in Two Weeks” in the University of Florida IFAS Extension newsletter Panhandle Outdoors.
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.
Navy Point Oyster Reefs – Escambia County personnel and volunteers have completed construction of a number of small reefs made from bagged oyster shells off Navy Point in Bayou Grande. According to County officials, the reefs will help minimize shore erosion and improve water quality, particularly if live oysters begin to take residence on the reefs. Some nearby residents have concerns about the project from possible dangers to children swimming in the area from the oyster shells and harmful bacteria in the water. See the March 21, 2018 Pensacola News Journal article “Navy Point ‘living shore’ oyster project causes concern among some residents” by Kevin Robinson for more on the issue. .
More on Plastic Waste in the Ocean – Additional research and published articles have expressed increased concerns about plastic waste in the oceans. One article discusses the rapid buildup of plastic in the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” between California and Hawaii while the other predicts that the amount of plastic in the oceans will treble within a decade. For more on these issues, see the March 22, 2018 article “Plastic patch in Pacific Ocean growing rapidly, study shows” by Helen Briggs and the March 21, 2018 article “Ocean plastic could treble in decade” by Roger Harrabin, both published by the BBC.
Butterfly House to Open for the Season then Close for Renovations – The Panhandle Butterfly House near the Navarre Bridge on Santa Rosa Sound opens its doors for its 21st season on May 5, 2018, but will close for remodeling until 2022 after the season is over. When the facility reopens, it will feature “a bigger, taller vivarium and new museum-quality exhibits that are expected to be a year-round eco-tourism attraction.” The nonprofit organization is operated by volunteers and seeks to increase public awareness of the importance of butterflies to the environment. See the March 21, 2018 Pensacola News Journal article “Help out at Butterfly House” by Rebecca Carlson for more on this issue.
Report Pelicans with Blue or Green Bands – Clemson University has banded and released 850 pelicans over the past several years to determine their migratory habits. If spotted, you can report the pelican’s location on the Project Pelican website at projectpelicanj.weebly.com. See the March 25, 2018 Pensacola News Journal article ”Clemson University’s Project Pelican tracks banded birds on Gulf Coast” by Anne Delaney for more on this issue.
Report Horseshoe Crab Sightings – The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is collecting information on horseshoe crabs, a species whose population has decreased in recent years from overfishing and loss of habitat. Beachgoers are most likely to see horseshoe crabs at high tides during full or new moons in March and April. Reports of sightings can be made to FWC by going to MyFWC.com/Contact and other means noted in the FWC Bulletin article “Report horseshoe crab spawning sightings with new FWC app."
Volunteers Needed – Volunteers are needed to help monitor the status of seagrass and the presence of the diamondback terrapins in our area. In addition, surveys of the Big Lagoon bay scallop population will be conducted in June and August 2018. If interested in participating in these activities, contact the Escambia County Sea Grant representative Rick O’Connor at [email protected].
Legislation moving through the Florida House and Senate could impact Perdido Key property owners and residents. House Bill 631 (2018) and Senate Bill 804 (2018) address the issues of “private property” and “customary use.” Customary use can be an issue in dry sand areas that have “historically” been used for beach access by the general public or a specific group, but are privately owned. It has been contentious in some Florida locations such as Walton County. Both bills appear to strengthen private property rights and, in the House bill, would prevent local governments from taking action to alter the State’s interpretation of the balance between private property rights and customary use. Some are concerned that the customary use criteria could be applied to Perdido Key where parking on private property near beaches is sometimes tolerated by the owners.
In early-January 2018, US Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke announced a plan to expand offshore drilling on the Atlantic, Pacific, and Gulf coasts of the United States. The plan was met with opposition from many state governors, including Florida governor Rick Scott who expressed concern for Florida’s natural resources. Following a meeting between Secretary Zinke and Governor Scott, Florida was granted an exemption from offshore drilling. For more on the issue, see the January 8, 2018 article by Sam Ori “Why Trump’s Offshore Drilling Expansion Won’t be so ‘Yuge’” in Forbes; the January 10, 2018 article by Ledjard King “After Interior drops Florida from offshore drilling plan, other states say ‘me too’” in USA Today; and, the January 15, 2018 article by Associated Press journalist Matthew Daly “Senator Questions Protecting Only Florida from Drilling” in Tampa Bay Times.
Comments on the proposed offshore drilling plan to the Department of the Interior can be made until March 9, 2018 by mail or online through the following procedures:
Mail: Comments can be mailed in an envelope labeled “Comments for the 2019-2024 Draft Proposed National Oil and Gas Leasing Program” and mailed (or hand delivered) to Ms. Kelly Hammerle, Chief, National Oil and Gas Leasing Program Development and Coordination Branch, Leasing Division, Office of Strategic Resources, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (VAM-LD), 45600 Woodland Road, Sterling, VA 20166-9216.
Online: Comments can also be made through the Regulations.gov web portal. Navigate to http://www.regulations.gov and under the Search tab, in the space provided, type in Docket ID:BOEM-2017-0074 to submit comments and to view other comments already submitted. (Drawn from federalregister.gov.)
Opinions can also be expressed to elected officials, some of whom are listed in the Government Contacts page of the PKA website.
The Florida First Circuit Court dismissed the libel suit by former District 2 Commissioner Gene Valentino against current District 2 Commissioner Doug Underhill. For more on this issue, go to the February 27, 2018 article “Valentino’s libel lawsuit against rival Underhill is dismissed” by Jim Little in the Pensacola News Journal.
Because of termite infestation, one of the pavilions at the Perdido Key Area of the Gulf Islands National Seashore (Johnson Beach) will be torn down and not replaced. The area will be used for additional parking. For more on the issue, see the February 13, 2018 article by Melissa Nelson Gabriel “Johnson Beach pavilion destroyed by termites, slated for demolition” in the Pensacola News Journal.
For an informative article on the Perdido Key beach mouse, the Escambia County Habitat Conservation Plan, and how it all has worked out over the past couple of years, see the December 13, 2017 article by Dan Chapman “The mouse that roared: On a Florida beach, builders and conservationists join forces to save an endangered species” on the US Fish & Wildlife website.
Photo by USFWS
The Gulf Islands National Seashore was voted as the USA Today/10 Best Readers’ Choice Best Florida Attraction for 2018. It was selected by a panel of experts from among 20 other destination nominations. Gulf Islands National Seashore Superintendent Dan Brown said: “Being voted #1 Best Florida Attraction confirms what most of us already know – that the Gulf Islands National Seashore is a phenomenal place, with its incredibly beautiful beaches and fascinating forts.” “The best part is that it belongs to all of us to experience and enjoy.” For more on this issue, see the January 20, 2018 article by Derek Cosson “Gulf Islands National Seashore Named Best Florida Attraction” in The Pulse.
As released by the Perdido Key Chamber of Commerce, The Luxury Travel Guide recognized Perdido Key as its “Wildlife Destination of 2017.” The December 15, 2017 Chamber news release noted: “With the area being covered with 60 percent protected park lands, the prestigious and highly experienced judges from the U.K. wanted to share our little piece of lost treasure with the world.” The release went on to say “The Luxury Travel Guide Awards represent the pinnacle of travel and tourism achievement, championing the best in their respective fields; therefore to come out on top is truly an achievement.”
The Perdido Key Association has established a Facebook page at facebook.com/PKA.org – also linked with this website. The page provides a forum for PKA members to express and discuss their Perdido Key experiences, their appreciation and concerns about action taken or not taken regarding the Key, and their suggestions about improvements that could be made to our island and the Association itself. While the PKA Board of Directors uses the PKA website and e-mail releases such as the monthly Key Notes to reach out to members, opinions expressed on the PKA Facebook page will certainly make their way to the Board for consideration.
Comments on the PKA Facebook page should focus on Perdido Key issues and not be a vehicle for personal, political or commercial advantage. Offensive language or photos, other disturbing posts, and spam are inappropriate for the page and will be removed when identified; if the behavior continues, the person making the entries will be blocked from further participation. As a reminder of its purpose, the Perdido Key Association “operates exclusively for charitable and educational purposes in providing information needed to promote the welfare and orderly development, combat deterioration, lessen neighborhood tension, and maintain the natural beauty of the community known as Perdido Key, Florida.”
Escambia County has been notified that its Multi-Year Implementation Plan (MYIP) for use of RESTORE funds (BP Oil Spill penalties) has been approved by the US Department of Treasury. The MYIP includes the Perdido Key Gulf of Mexico Beach Access and Perdido Key Multi-Use Path proposals. The approval allows the County to submit the individual projects for Treasury review to ensure compliance with appropriate regulations before final approval, which is anticipate for early 2018. For more on this issue, see The Pulse October 20, 2017 article by Drew Buchanan, “$8.6M Plan for Oil Spill RESTORE Projects in Pensacola Signed Off by U.S. Treasury,” at pulsegulfcoast.com.
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.
On September 7, 2017, the Escambia County Board of County Commissioners again heard arguments regarding the request for an opt out from the Escambia County Mid-West Sector Plan, a land use document for the northern Rt. 29 corridor (north of I-10, west of Rt. 29, and south of Rt. 196) that established a number of districts designated for greater development while leaving other areas available for residential development and greater environmental protection. As with the first hearing conducted in March 2017, the Commissioners voted 4 to 1 in favor of the opt out, with District 2 Commissioner Doug Underhill dissenting. The decision will allow former County Commissioner Wilson Robertson to pursue commercial development on an 8.67 acre parcel of land designated as a Conservation Neighborhood by the Sector Plan. In defending his no vote, Commissioner Underhill lauded to efforts of Jacqueline Rogers, who argued strongly in defense of keeping the sector plan as is, and other women advocates of Escambia County, such as former Perdido Key Association president Annie Griffin, for their tireless and extraordinary work in defense of their communities.
The Friends of the Southwest Branch Library have greeting cards for sale at the Library on Gulf Beach Highway. The cards feature artist Bronwen Ross and cover various occasions, with some blank cards available as well. They cost $.50 each with all proceeds going to fund the Friends’ Summer Reading Club program of once per week “educational performers” who use games and entertainment to encourage children to read during their summer vacations.
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.
Gorgeous weather favored the PKA co-sponsored World Oceans Day Event on Saturday June 10, 2017 at Perdido Key State Park. Many families learned more about our endangered oceans from the several exhibits on display, including information on plastic pollution, the lionfish threat, shore bird and nesting turtle precautions, and invasive plant species. The event also featured a beach cleanup and children’s sand sculpture competition and was highlighted by a visit from Maverick (the Ice Flyers mascot), enormous colorful kites flying overhead, and a wonderful stopover by a screech owl from the Wildlife Sanctuary of Northwest Florida. Co-sponsored by the Friends of Pensacola State Parks and Florida State Park Rangers, the event was enjoyable for all and well covered by the Mullet Wrapper, the Pensacola News Journal and WEAR Channel 3.