01 January 2015
Record Crowds Converge on Coast
By Chuck Spicer
The official numbers won’t be compiled and released for several months down the road but we don’t need “accommodations tax” numbers to tell us that Florida’s Forgotten Coast is in the midst of its busiest summer ever. We just know!
“No vacancy” signs hang all along the coast as families from mostly landlocked neighboring states converge on their favorite beaches in the world. St. George Island, which was again recently recognized as the third best beach in the nation, is so packed that most all accommodations are limited to week-long stays. St. Joseph Peninsula, which features the previously recognized top beach (state park at far tip) in the United States, is a steady stream of family-laden cargo vans and fishing vessels on its single main road extending from the South Gulf County mainland along the Cape (San Blas).
Mexico Beach, with its sugar white sand beaches (with no undertow) located right on the main thoroughfare (Highway 98), is growing more popular with each passing year. And is packed!
Heck, even the non-beach areas of the region are feeling the effects as some visitors settle for just getting close to a beach or a boat launch to fabulous fishing.
In fact, the popularity of the entire Forgotten Coast as a summer family beach vacation destination has grown to such a point that new records may soon be impossible to achieve unless there is a growth of vacation rentals. But a recent spurt in real estate sales (see B section) could be a positive sign of things to come.
The region allows nothing but clean, light industry so it must rely on its “natural attributes” as the foundation of its economy. It is becoming increasingly clear that the region can hang its hat on its continued efforts to make this an “ecotourism destination.” Now it is up to our hospitality and the local tourist development councils to get some of you visiting folks to return here during our shoulder months. Months that most all of the local folks actually prefer. Months with milder temperatures and less traffic and waiting lines.
For the past 25 years readers have been telling us that there favorite thing to do while on the Forgotten Coast is “just plain relax.” If you wish to simply relax on a seashore with a good book or sip a fine wine while watching a sunset from your porch – that’s sounds wonderful. If you wish to be just a tad more active we provide you an overview of activities planned for this month.
On Tuesdays there is Summer Bingo on St. George Island - upstairs at the fire station (324 E. Pine Ave.) at 7:00pm. It is sponsored by the St. George Island Civic Club and everyone is welcome. On Wednesdays in July from 2-3 pm there is a Presentation about Sea Turtles, Franklin County's Oldest Visitors, by the Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve (ANERR) and the St. George Island Volunteer Turtlers at the ANERR complex, at 108 Island Drive (just across the St. George Island bridge in Eastpoint.
On Thursdays in July the Carrabelle Artist Association presents “Canvas & Cocktails Series” at the Franklin County Senior Center in Carrabelle. The event is a fun informal way to unleash your creative side. Bring your favorite beverage, possibly a snack, and relax. A team of instructors will guide you step by step through the featured painting. Classes are $25 for a 2 hour painting. Also on Thursdays in July the public is invited for delicious lunch starting at noon at this same Senior Center. Includes entrée and lots of sides plus ice tea and desert. A $5 donation is appropriate. There will be a SaltAir Farmers’ Market in Port St. Joe in City Commons Park on the First & third Saturday mornings July 4 & 18) of each month thru September. Apparently there will be an expanded edition on July 4th.
The 14th Annual Mexico Beach Photography Contest began April 1st and runs thru through July 30th. All Photographs must be taken in Mexico Beach and submitted to the Mexico Beach Community Development Council by the deadline.
BAY SCALLOP SEASON
The Bay Scallop Recreational season is open in Gulf of Mexico state waters (shore to 9 nautical miles) from the Pasco-Hernando county line to the west bank of the Mexico Beach Canal in Bay County). The season will remain open through Sept. 24, with the first day of the closure on Sept. 25. All other regulations, including bag and vessel limits, apply.
Recreational scallop hunting is a mighty popular pastime of Florida’s Forgotten Coast and is enjoyed by residents and visitors alike. Now that the season is open, vehicles will line the roadways in Port St. Joe (Gulf County) and along scenic route C-30 all the way to the tip of Cape San Blas as individuals and families enjoy gathering the evening meal.
Scalloping is a fun activity the entire family can enjoy. Scallop season only lasts a couple of months (June to September), but during that time St. Joseph Bay draws visitors from all over seeking to fill their buckets with the succulent morsels. Catching them is easy, cleaning them a little harder, and feasting on them simply delicious.
How do you scallop? Scalloping is relatively easy for beginners and doesn't require much more than a saltwater fishing license and a mandatory dive flag, if snorkeling. A mask and snorkel gliding over the grass beds in 2-3 foot deep water is the preferred method. Many simply wade out from the shore but if you use a boat please consider preservation of our grass beds and avoid motoring in low tides to prevent scarring of the bottom. Scallops are a bivalve mollusk that can be found resting on blades of grass or sometimes sitting on the sandy bottom. A good way to spot them is to look for the myriad of glowing blue eyes along the edge of their shells. It takes quite a few scallops to make a meal, and the bigger they are the better. Consider throwing back small scallops of under 2" for a little more growth as the meat size may not be worth harvesting.
Sea Turtle Nesting Season
More about sea turtles. Sea turtle nesting season is here! During early May and through June, sea turtle nests have been spotted on both St George Island , St. Vincent Island and other areas of the Forgotten Coast, and volunteers and staff are monitoring remaining area beaches for their crawls. Each spring hundreds of these grand creatures arise from Gulf waters to lay their eggs on our sandy shores. Most of the turtles that nest here are Loggerheads, Caretta caretta, but we do get some Green sea turtles, Chelonia mydas and Leatherback sea turtles, Dermochelys coriacea. Hatchlings will start to crawl out of their nests approximately two months after being laid and continue to emerge through October. On average there are 90 nests on Little St George and 150 nests on St. George every year.
Bruce Drye has been monitoring turtle nesting on St. George since 1990, after he retired from the St. George Island State Park. At first a volunteer, he was later hired by ANERR to oversee the project each year. Bruce started the ANERR St. George Island Volunteer Turtlers which also help monitor the nests.
Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve offers free weekly talks about sea turtles, their nesting habits, how the nests are identified, protected and how visitors and residents can help sea turtles have a successful nesting season, on Wednesdays at 2:00 PM. Dates of the talks will be July, 1, 8,15,22,29 and August 5,12,19,26. For more call info call 850-670-7700. WHEN: Every Wednesday in July and August from 2:00-3:00pm; WHERE: 108 Island Drive, Eastpoint 32328
JULY 3-4 INDEPENDENCE DAY CELEBRATIONS
Starting on July 3 in Apalachicola there will be Independence Day celebrations all across the Forgotten Coast. For complete details see our “A Real Blas” article on page A-1.
On July 18 there will be a C-Quarters Marina Youth Fishing Tournament at 501 St. James Ave (Highway 98), in Carrabelle. Kids (residents and visitors) from all over the South are invited to attend the 10th Annual Youth Fishing Tournament. Open to all kids 16 and younger. Registration is required on-site. The youngsters have a ball as they line the marina docks; socialize; interact with other youngsters and make new friends and munch hot dogs. And, of course, get some helpful instructions. Sponsored by Jimmie Crowder of C-Quarters Marina, FishFloridaTag.org and local businesses. Phone: (850) 697-8400 Website: www.c-quartersmarina.com/tournaments.html
Here’s a unique event that they don’t likely have in Hotlanta. It is on July 14 and is called Tots On Trails. A 45-minute program designed to acquaint preschool children with the plants and animals of the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge, and with the natural world in general. Bring your kids (ages 1-4 years old) to the Refuge for fun activities and a short ranger-led hike. Meets on the second Thursday and the second Saturday of each month at 11:00 am. http://www.visitwakulla.com/Events/Tots-On-Trails#sthash.6zt80riN.dpuf
It is called “Chimney Chit Chat” and is on July 25. Join one of the park's volunteer citizen scientists for an introduction to the amazing chimney swifts, nature's 'flying cigars', as they circle the historic Wakulla Springs Lodge. The Lodge at Wakulla Springs has a large flock that roosts in one of its inactive chimneys. Come to learn about the swifts as they perform their swirling aerial dance prior to their descent into the chimney. Be part of the citizen scientist endeavor as you challenge yourself to count them. Enjoy this unusual program to see firsthand one of nature’s amazing spectacles. It's great practice for the official count in early September. RSVP is required! Please call 850-561-7286 to let them know that you’re coming. See more at: http://www.visitwakulla.com/Events/Chimney-Chitchat#sthash.XCgfHD5N.dpuf
On July 24-25 Mexico Beach Marina (right on Highway 98) hosts it 10th annual Offshore Classic and this year it's fish on! With two days to fish for the big one, anglers will fight it out to prove they have what it takes. The Captain's party will take place on Thursday night with time and location to be posted on their website at a later day. Then it's time for the fishing to begin. With $1,500 prizes in Wahoo, Kingfish and Mackerel as well as an optional jackpot. Also a $2,500 overall Grand Prize. Weigh in both days at the Mexico Beach Marina. Awards party on Saturday will be at the Marina with food, beverages and entertainment. To register or for more information visit the Mexico Beach Marina or their website.
850-648-8900 for more details.