Please plan to attend the Perdido Key Association's Annual Membership Meeting on Saturday, February 23, 2019, from 10 AM until Noon, at the Eden Condominium, 16281 Perdido Key Drive. All PKA members are invited to attend. Several weeks before the meeting, PKA members will receive by US Mail a packet of material including a meeting announcement with proxy instructions, the meeting agenda, and discussion of Perdido Key issues and PKA activities along with 2019 membership application. If you are not planning to attend the meeting, please complete the proxy form and mail to PKA as soon as possible. The 2019 Board of Directors will be introduced at the meeting and the 2018 Annual Membership Meeting Minutes presented for approval - the unapproved minutes can be reviewed on the PKA website Archive page.
We are honored to have Doug Underhill, Escambia County District 2 Commissioner, as the meeting's featured speaker. A resident of Perdido Key and longtime PKA member, Commissioner Underhill will certainly bring PKA members up-to-date on the many opportunities and challenges affecting Perdido Key now and in the future. Please join us!
The wooden bridge on River Road about a quarter mile from Perdido Key Drive that crosses a small creek leading to the Old River is being replaced. Over the past several months, a number of repairs had been necessary because of rotting boards. Further down River Road, the dog park that provides access to the Old River is also being refurbished. The children’s play equipment has been removed from the area as the park is reconfigured with separate areas for small and large dogs.
About midway through December 2018, the Perdido Key Association website was hacked by the “LegionBomb3r.” It was first evident when the site’s pages appeared in what seemed to be the Japanese language. The hack was accompanied by hundreds of thousands of access requests that further disrupted the site. The site has been restored to normal or near-normal operation and there should be no danger to accessing the PKA website, but please inform PKA president Charles Krupnick at [email protected] if difficulties are experienced. The Quartz online article “The newspaper hack is a reminder of all the US infrastructure that’s vulnerable” by Annalisa Merelli details recent US problems with hacking and can be accessed at qz.com.
With the federal government in partial shutdown because of budget disputes, residents and visitors are being turned away from one of the Pensacola area’s premier attractions, the Gulf Islands National Seashore – including the Perdido Key Area (Johnson Beach). Visit Pensacola head Steve Hayes said his agency is working to inform tourists of the closure and provide information on other lodging and activities in the area. Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson noted that if the shutdown continues into spring break, the area could take “an economic hit.” For more on the issue, see the January 6, 2019 Pensacola News Journal article “Government shutdown: Frustration grows as Gulf Islands National Seashore stays closed” by Melissa Nelson Gabriel” at pnj.com.
The Escambia County Board of County Commissioners has changed its policy on public comments at their meetings. As cited in the Pensacola News Journal December 10, 2018 article “Escambia County Commission changes public comment policy at meetings” by Jim Little, the County’s written policy allows people three minutes to speak, but “the commission has allowed people to donate their three minutes to another person.” At his first meeting as Board chairman, Commissioner Lumon May changed the procedure so that time may not be donated to others, a change accepted by the other commissioners. Members of the Perdido Key Association as well as other interested residents often speak at Commission meetings on issues affecting Perdido Key. To access the article, go to pnj.com.
Volunteers are requested to help with a "Shoreline Monitoring Citizen Science Program" on Perdido Key as part of research being conducted by the University of New Orleans and Owens Coastal Consultants. The program would extend the work begun in March 2018 on Dauphin Island, Alabama and involves taking periodic profiles of several portions of Perdido Key’s beaches to determine the "seasonal beach and sediment dynamics" so researchers and officials can be better prepared for oil spills in the future. The sample frequency, number of sample locations, and project duration are still to be determined, but Dauphin Island volunteers collect data at seven locations two or three times a month. Having 10 or so volunteers would allow a rotation of sample duties. If interested, please contact Charles Krupnick at [email protected].
At its November 14, 2018 meeting, the Escambia County Board of Adjustment approved the Escambia County staff request to allow a variance on the zoning for the currently vacant property at 16400 Perdido Key Drive for recreation use “to construct a public beach access point on the subject parcel.” The owners association of the Seafarer Condominium adjacent to the property, however, has asked the Escambia County Circuit Court to reverse the decision, arguing that the County did not meet all the requirements necessary for the ruling – including “the habitat conservation required for the site.”The legal action is discussed in the January 3, 2019 Pensacola News Journal article “Perdido Key condo owners take Escambia county to court over beach access” by Jim Little available at pnj.com.
If the Board of Adjustment decision is upheld, additional steps would still be required before part of the property can be open to public use, including more specific studies and planning plus coordination with US Fish and Wildlife. The Board of Adjustment decision followed the October 18, 2018 Escambia County Board of County Commissioners decision “To direct staff to begin to procure the planning aspect moving forward and utilize the funds that are in the Perdido Key Beach Acquisition Project of $50,000” (minutes available at escambiaclerk.com). One proposal for the property calls for 24 parking spaces and another for 39. Background information on the issue is available from the September 25, 2018 article “Three options under consideration for Perdido Key beach access” by Jim Little at pnj.com and the August 2, 2018 article “Perdido Key beach mouse or parking lot” by Melissa Nelson Gabriel available at pnj.com, both in the Pensacola News Journal.
The Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo on the Intracoastal Waterway will move to a new facility being constructed about four miles north of the current location later in 2019. Located off County Road 6 on 25 acres of land donated by the Weir family, the new zoo will be on higher ground and have more space for its over 600 animals. For more on the zoo, go to the March 13, 2018 Mullet Wrapper article “Construction begins for new Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo” at mulletwrapper.net.
Perdido Key Association members and friends shared a very pleasurable evening out of the cold at the Seafarer Condominium for the annual PKA Holiday Party on December 10. All enjoyed the plentiful food and beverages provided, highlighted by Alan Dennis’ famous meatballs and Kelly Roberson’s gumbo, but also enjoying the opportunity to catch up with past acquaintances and make new ones. It was a great way to begin the holiday season.
Despite thunder and lightning in the preceding hours, the Friends of Pensacola State Parks and State Park personnel were able to stage a very successful “Holiday in the Park” on Saturday, December 1, 2018. Approximately 75 children and adults came to see the beautiful lights, share cookies, popcorn, and hot chocolate, and of course to whisper their Christmas wishes in Santa’s ear. Santa arrived on a fire truck with members of Escambia County Fire Department, Station 8 on Innerarity Point Road. A good time was certainly had by all!
While Escambia County residents voted overwhelmingly to keep existing Santa Rosa Island beach ownership rules (i.e., leasing instead of private ownership), some in Santa Rosa County hope to move forward with privatization. As covered in the Pensacola News Journal November 26, 2018 article “Advocates of beach ownership changes push for new legislation despite recent vote” by Melissa Nelson Gabriel, the issue remains active but with changed political dynamics. Representative Matt Gaetz who sponsored a 2017 privatization measure in the US House of Representatives was reelected while Senator Bill Nelson who opposed the measure in the US Senate was defeated by Governor Rick Scott – Scott like Gaetz a Republican. The US House of Representatives, however, is now controlled by Democrats. The article concluded that it was unlikely Congress would move forward to change ownership without approval from the Escambia County Commission which officially has “no position” on the issue. To access the article, go to pnj.com.
After decades of dispute and legal proceedings, the Florida Court of Appeals on November 28, 2018 upheld a lower court’s decision that the owners of a 20 by 50 foot portion of land at the end of Catawba Street could prohibit the public from using the property for beach access. The property had been used as such for decades, but the property owners disputed the practice in legal action against the city of Gulf Breeze. During the dispute the city sought to establish eminent domain over the property and also made a “community access” argument, but decided to end its legal battle after losing the latest appeal. Incoming Gulf Breeze Mayor David Landfair expressed concern that the ruling may provide a precedent for other challenges “to the public’s right to access the land.” For more on this issue, see the December 05, 2018 Pensacola News Journal article “Gulf Breeze ordered to pay $250,000 to private property owners over public access battle” by Annie Banks at pnj.com.
Beach access is a concern in many Florida beach communities, not just Gulf Breeze, Perdido Key and Pensacola Beach. Problems have developed in part because of private ownership of about 60% of Florida beachfront property, the growing number of people going to beaches, and insufficient public beach access and parking. A Florida law passed in March 2018 stated that local governments could not grant beach access to the public using the “customary use” argument as was attempted by Walton County. The March law is discussed in Pensacola News Journal March 28, 2018 article “Scott signs law affecting public access to many private beaches” by Thaddeus Mast at pnj.com. Florida Governor Rick Scott’s office followed with a clarification discussed in the July 13, 2018 WEAR transcript titled “Florida Governor issues executive order clearing up beach access confusion” by Hannah Mackenzie at weartv.com. US Senator Bill Nelson, the Democratic candidate who competed against Governor Scott for the Senate in the November General Election, urged Governor Scott to hold a special legislative session to repeal the law. For more on this issue, see Pensacola News Journal July 28, 2018 article “Nelson wants repeal of beach access law” by Melissa Nelson Gabriel at pnj.com.
Approximately $15 million from the Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund (Deepwater Horizon liabilities) will be used to construct 33 oyster reefs involving 6.5 miles of the East Bay in Santa Rosa County. One of 21 such projects along the Gulf coast, the reefs should help clean and filter East Bay waters, increase marine habitat, and provide buffer zones in storms. Construction should begin in summer 2019. For more on this issues, see the November 26, 2018 Pensacola News Journal article “Pensacola area expected to receive more oyster reefs funding for East Bay oyster habitat” by Melissa Nelson Gabriel at pnj.com.
At a November 8, 2018 presentation at the Gulf Shores Cultural Center Auditorium, Dr. Gregory A. Waselkov – Professor Emeritus of Anthropology at the University of South Florida, discussed long-time local lore about a canal across Fort Morgan Peninsula from Little Lagoon to Oyster Bay (adjacent to Mobile Bay). Academic research over the past several years, as supported by volunteers organized by citizens of the City of Gulf Shores, has confirmed that a half mile waterway dug in about the 6th century AD by the area’s early inhabitants was used for hundreds of years as part of a trade network that extended into the center of the North American continent. The local inhabitants used dugout canoes on the canal to bypass the more hazardous route from Mobile Bay around Fort Morgan and into the Gulf of Mexico. The canal is one of several identified in Florida. The City of Gulf Shores plans to preserve a section of the canal as part of a heritage trail. (Information obtained partly from Coastal Alabama Business Chamber website and the Mullet Wrapper)
Florida elections have attracted national attention because of their importance and narrowness of margins between candidates, such as for Governor and US Senator. After required recounts because of the narrow margins, Republicans Ron DeSantis will become Florida’s next Governor and Rick Scott will replace Bill Nelson as a US Senator. Elsewhere, Matt Gaetz will continue to represent Florida District One in the US House of Representatives, Mike Hill will represent District One in the Florida House, Doug Underhill will represent District Two in the Escambia County Board of County Commissioners, and Grover C. Robinson will be Pensacola’s mayor. All proposed Amendments to the Florida Constitution were approved by Florida voters by the necessary 60% except for Amendment 1 that would have raised the homestead property tax exemption by $25,000 for homes worth greater that $100,000. If passed, the amendment would have lowered the amount of property tax revenue local governments, such as Escambia County, could raise for local services and projects. A separate non-binding referendum overwhelmingly approved by Escambia County voters endorsed a policy “prohibiting any privatization through sale or lease of currently unleased property on Santa Rosa Island.” For more on these issues, see the following Pensacola News Journal articles: November 7, 2018 “Florida amendments: What passed, failed in midterm election” at pnj.com; November 6, 2018 “Pensacola Beach referendum passes with overwhelming support” by Melisa Nelson Gabriel at pnj.com; and, November 12, 2018 “Local Florida governments ‘dodge bullet’ with failure of homestead exemption amendment” by Jim Little at pnj.com.
Two new direct flights from Pensacola International Airport were recently announced. United Airlines will begin daily seasonal service from Pensacola to Newark Liberty International Airport (serving the New York City area) on June 6, 2019 while Silver Airways will begin nonstop service between Pensacola and Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport on February 13, 2019. For more on these developments, see the Pensacola News Journal October 15, 2018 article “United Airlines announces new seasonal flights from Pensacola to Newark” at pnj.com and the South Florida Business Journal November 15, 2018 article “Direct Flights from Pensacola to Fort Lauderdale to start” at bizjournals.com.
Gulf Coast Marine Services and the Gulf Islands National Seashore are ending their agreement to operate two 150 passenger ferries between downtown Pensacola, Pensacola Beach, and Ft. Pickens. Captain George Aswad of Marine Services noted that his company had lost over $300,000 operating the ferries in less than six months due to high cost of operations and low ridership. Seashore Superintendent Dan Brown stated he was optimistic the ferry service would be available in 2019. For more on the issue, see Pensacola News Journal October 30, 2018 article “After Unsuccessful 2018 Seasons, beach ferry operator and National Park Service end agreement” by Melissa Gabriel Nelson at pnj.com.
The Perdido Key Association has been associated with 1000 Friends of Florida for several years. The fellow non-profit organization has provided expertise and on-the-ground support to help PKA pursue its purpose of promoting the “welfare and orderly development, combat deterioration, lessen neighborhood tension, and maintain the natural beauty” of Perdido Key. Nathaniel Pryor Reed, one of the cofounders and leaders of the organization for several decades, passed away in July 2018 at age 84. He had a very active public life in addition to his work with 1000 Friends, including service as a US Assistant Secretary of the Interior and promotion of Everglades protection initiatives and the Florida Greenways program. Further information on Mr. Reed is available in a recent 1000 Friends of Florida newsletter at 1000friendsofflorida.org.
Hurricane Michael pounded our beach community neighbors to the east with Category 4 winds and storm surge, virtually leveling Mexico Beach while heavily damaging Tyndall Air Force Base, parts of Panama City, Port St. Joe, and other coastal communities, plus Marianna and numerous inland locations up to Virginia. The damage was catastrophic for many, but Perdido Key and most of our local area escaped significant damage. The rapid intensification of the storm as it neared landfall was a lesson for all, however. While many may have intended to ride out a Category 2 Hurricane Michael as it approached the coast, the Category 4/near Category 5 destruction that resulted placed those who stayed behind in grave danger. Perdido Key in Evacuation Zone A was under an evacuation order for the storm that some may not have observed. With the rapid intensification, loss of life and destruction from Hurricane Michael, great caution in the future seems appropriate.
If you wish to help those affected by the storm, Pensacola News Journal October 12, 2018 article “Hurricane Michael donations should be cash – not goods – to vetted agencies” by Melissa Nelson Gabriel at pnj.com provides some guidance.
DoD Photo: Glenn Fawcett
The Sierra Club and other environmental protection groups are suing the Federal Government for the planned lease sale for oil and gas development of most of the available acreage in the Gulf of Mexico, excluding portions subject to Congressional Memorandum (essentially the Florida continental shelf). The suit argues that offshore drilling will occur without “fully analyzing the risks to people, wildlife, and the environment.” For more on this issue, see the Sierra Club July 17, 2018 press release “Lawsuit Challenges Trump Administration’s Expansion of Gulf of Mexico Drilling” at sierraclub.org. In a separate offshore oil drilling issue, US government lawyers have filed a case involving Taylor Energy Co. and a drilling platform destroyed by Hurricane Ivan in 2004. The court filing argues that leakage from site wells is much greater than previously reported, in the range of 10,000 to 30,000 gallons per day and getting worse. For more on this issue, see AP News September 17, 2018 article “Federal lawyers: 2004 Gulf oil leak spills far more than thought” by Jeff Amy and Michael Kunzelman at apnews.com.
As a research follow-up to the Deepwater Horizon disaster, the University of New Orleans and Owens Coastal Consultants are monitoring the frequency that oil residue is appearing on the Gulf of Mexico shoreline. They have an ongoing project on Dauphin Island and are interesting in beginning one on Perdido Key. Four or five volunteers are needed to measure and sample a number of sites at several week intervals. If interested, please contact PKA president Charles Krupnick at [email protected].
Photo: Bureau of Ocean Energy Management
Progress is being made toward realization of a bicycle and pedestrian path along the north side of Perdido Key Drive. The eight foot wide concrete path will be at the ground level, though separate from the roadway, with no boardwalks except in areas where dunes may be impacted. The west portion of the path (from the Alabama state line to the west end of Perdido Key State Park) is fully funded for planning/engineering and construction; planning/engineering is scheduled for completion in November 2018 and construction is 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 which is scheduled for completion in July 2019. FDOT does not currently have construction funded though $960,000 of RESTORE (BP penalty) funding has been acquired, with the County working to obtain the remaining funds through grants and other sources. FDOT’s most recent planning level construction cost estimate is $4.5 million.
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.
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.
According to the January 11, 2019 Sea Grant Notes, Pensacola received 90 inches of rain in 2017 and 2018. These are 38% above the norm of 65 inches.
The website Sealevelrise.org noted that Florida sea levels have risen 8 inches since 1950 and are now expected to rise an inch every three years
A major concern in Southwest Florida for much of 2018, the red tide has moved toward Escambia County waters. As reported in the October 25, 2018 Pensacola News Journal article “Red tide detected at Navarre Beach, could be headed to Pensacola Beach” by Annie Blanks, concentrations of the Karenia brevis algae (red tide) “have made their way to Navarre Beach and could creep west toward Pensacola Beach.” According to Escambia County’s director of marine resources Robert Turpin, however, no significant blooms have been detected close to Escambia County thus far. While always present in local waters to some extent, higher concentrations of the algae can cause fish kills and human respiratory problems. To access the Journal article, go to pnj.com.
Faced with erosion on their waterfront property owners can erect a seawall of some sort (concrete, riprap, etc.) or pursue a “living shoreline.” Using “marsh seedlings and bags of oyster shells,” one owner reported after a few years that “crabs and snails crawl among the oysters and grasses” while “fish school in it when the tide is up”; moreover, “sand is being trapped in the yard when storms and floods hit instead of being washed away.” For more on living shorelines, see the Pensacola News Journal July 15, 2018 article “Living Shorelines Rise in popularity among Northwest Florida homeowners” by John Upton at pnj.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.
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 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.