Twitter Weekly Updates for 2009-05-26

  • They say numbers ae down this weekend, but walmart is packed. #
  • @amyers not yet. #
  • Going shopping with the kids at pier park. Lots of people here. #
  • reports are saying weekend tourism is way down, crappy start to the season, at least we have a good excuse, crappy weather. #
  • The slab is poured at the shubee flowrider in panama city beach. #
  • I just got back from the new airport and I saw no damage. #
  • I just got back from the new airport and I saw no damage. #
  • I just got back from the new airport and I saw no damage. #
  • I’m going up for the real story on the new Panama City airport environmental issues tomorrow! #
  • http://tinyurl.com/p3xj45 #

Despite Reports, New Airport has Little Environmental Damage

Despite other reports in the media, the construction of the new Panama City airport in West Bay has caused little disturbance in the natural environmental habitat of the pristine areas of West Bay, Burnt Mill Creek and the adjoining waterways.  Linda Young of the Clean Water Network, a whistle blower since the beginning of the project going underway, cried red flags citing that serious, irreparable damage was being caused by water run-off at the construction site.  Young claimed that the natural pristine areas would be forever damaged and that the marine habitats’ destruction would ruin the tourism industry only to correct herself by citing that it would ruin the charter fishing industry.

In a phone interview with Young, she claimed to have photographs documenting the excess run-off and the damage it has created to the surrounding environmental areas but failed to produce them after two requests were made.  Young also claimed that a dark powdery residue could be found on surrounding vegetation in the run-off areas, yet I observed non-such-matter.  It could be possible, however, that I was looking in the wrong areas, as we were limited by where we could go without some serious off-terrain gear. I was taken up Burnt Mill Creek until we couldn’t go anymore without running aground and took note that all of the vegetation looked the same as the vegetation all along the West Bay waterway, again, noting no muddy residue.

I visited the airport construction site on Thursday to talk with officials and was told that there were run-off issues that were being dealt with and that the Florida Department of Environmental Protection was and had been made aware of the issues.  The issues were noted during a period of heavy rain-fall during the months of March and April during regular weekly tests and were reported to the FDEP  .I was told that in collaboration with the FDEP, measures were being taken to correct the issues that had caused the excess and improper run-off.  I was told that the issues were not serious and that no permanent damage had occurred, but there were definitely issues to be resolved.

Phone calls to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection were not returned.

Upon noting above average levels of turbidity in the surrounding waterways at the new Panama City airport site, the airport authority hired a private independent environmental consulting group.  Ecological Resource Consultants (ERC) conducted a study of the environmental areas in and around Bear Bay Branch, Kelly Branch, Morrell Branch, Crooked Creek, Burnt Mill Creek and West Bay.  Over a period of 10 days, ERC studied data from the DEP, data from the Airport Authority and their own independent findings at the sites in question and found:

  • During construction, with the exception of March/April 2009, turbidity levels remains the same just off site as they were before construction began.
  • No sediment was found in Bear Bay Branch
  • Kelly Branch/Morrell Branch had sediment accumulation, which means the wetlands performed correctly, catching the sediment before it went into the creeks.
  • There was no sediment found in Burnt Mill Creek, Crooked Creek or West Bay.
  • ERC took 8 core samples from Burnt Mill Creek and Crooked Creek, from the branch outfall locations all the way down to the mouth of each creek at West Bay and found no sediment accumulation.
  • They also had a snorkeler check and found no visible impact to sea grasses and no sediment in West Bay.
  • Found finer textured sediment which causes some minor concern because it could possibly reactivate with a heavy rainfall, but they are working with DEP to develop an approved approach to limiting remobilization.
  • There was no measurable impact on either Creek or West Bay.
  • Almost all of the sediment was contained on the airport property and within the permit boundaries.

After talking with Roy Willett, KBR Construction Manager at the new Panama City Airport site, I was told that through on-going communication with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection approved resolutions were being made to improve the  existing run-off systems to provide minimal impact on the surrounding areas.  To help, more than 600 acres of land has been seeded and mulched in the last 2 weeks.

Direct Hit – Panama City Beach Hurricane Season 2009

hurricane-ivanThe National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration published its 2009 hurricane predictions interpreted by some to be “busy” and others as “normal.” Top weather forecasters on the federal level announced that the tropics are likely to experience an active storm season, stirring up between 11 – 14 storms with 6 -8 of them becoming full hurricanes. This is not quite as active as last year’s storm season which produced 16 named storms, 8 of them hurricanes and 5 of those major hurricanes. Florida, for its part, only had to deal with one storm, Fay, and the Gulf of Mexico remained relatively unharmed.

The hurricane affect on the travel season is ambiguous at best. Any city in the path of a Hurricane or tropical storm instantly becomes America’s most avoided destination. Even small tropical storms, a full week away from landfall where Panama City Beach sits somewhere within a 300 mile-wide landing cone, could detour potential tourist to other vacation areas. Travel by air during hurricane warnings is usually halted and driving into a potential storm isn’t necessarily safe. Vacations are canceled or postponed and economically the shift can be staggering. In a post-Katrina 2006 survey by Manugistics Group Inc., results found that one quarter of Americans say they would cancel Florida travel plans because of the hurricanes. The survey also said up to 3.4 million hotel room-nights could be canceled or avoided during the remainder of the year.

On the other hand, despite the devastation wreaked by hurricanes in recent years, thousands of intrepid travelers will be making their way to hurricane zones like Panama City Beach, lured by cheap airfares and accommodation rates. Many travelers are willing to risk encountering a storm during their vacation — especially if their hotel or condo destination offers a hurricane guarantee. Case in point, the very same Manugistics Group Inc survey also found that one third of American adults said the hurricanes would not affect travel plans.

The Panama City Beach’s TDC, CVB and the majority of the private sector have spent loads of money marketing this year’s summer season expected to be bigger than the last two years. With Panama City Beach’s new image being showcased all over the south, the buzz about the city may be at its highest point, so high that the only thing that can bring it down is a hurricane. Still, PCB has endured many hurricanes and businesses remain stalwart. Billy Alam, General Manager of the beach front Days Inn, says, “I’m not worried. You just have to be prepared.”

Preparation was the talk of the NOAA forecast news conference. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke told reporters, ”Our plan today is simple: We want the public to be ready for this year’s season,” Locke was accompanied by NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco and Bill Read, NOAA’s National Hurricane Center director. Bill Read added, “Hurricane season in upon us. We need to communicate down to the personal level, preparedness, now is the time.”

NOAA officials said the forecast will be updated in August, normally the busiest part of hurricane season.

The first four storms of the year to come out of the Atlantic, Caribbean or the Gulf of Mexico have already been named, Ana, Bill, Claudette and Danny. For a summer season that is set to be a lucrative one for Panama City Beach businesses, let’s hope we don’t get to meet Ana, Bill, Claudette or Danny face to debri-swirling face.

Aliens to Invade Panama City Beach

comicconIf you’ve ever dreamed being a member of the Vulcan race or currently own a Komo Val model Klingon battleship or just love Science Fiction in all its shape-shifting forms, The Wrath of Con : Science Fiction Convention and Film Festival is your ticket to “boldy” having a blast. The Panama City Beach event will be held at the Bay Point Marriott Golf Resort & Spa and will be littered with celebrity appearances with a guest list that includes “Hercules” and “Andromeda” star Kevin Sorbo, “True Blood” cast member John Billingsley, J.G. Hertzler from “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” and loads more.

This event won’t be all about the Klingons and Vulcans though. You’ll enjoy awesome amateur films from talented film students, big time table top and video gaming and all sorts of entertainment and collectibles. You can expect appearances by Ghost Hunters, authors, artists, filmmakers and more throughout the weekend!

Individual day passes from the event are $15.00 for Friday, $30.00 for Saturday and $15.00 for Sunday. The event begins May 29 – 31st. For more information on the event please click here.

Summer Gas Price Projections Encourage Travel

Flashbacks of 2008 gas prices chilled spines throughout Memorial Day weekend as costs jumped at the pump from the $2.20 national average. The popular Circle K, at the entrance of the Strip on Front Beach topped out at $2.49 for regular unleaded for the weekend, 13 cents higher than the weekend’s national average of $2.36. Still, that’s $1.44 a gallon cheaper than a year ago when fears of an oil shortage sent energy prices soaring. Cheaper gas means more driving, which bodes well for the Panama City Beach’s summer tourism season.

Last summer’s oil shortage cut 2008 travel significantly. Recently released Energy Department data says, November to November last year, U.S. motorists drove 53.2 billion fewer miles than they did over the same period a year earlier. Gas prices in 2008 affected travelers deeply. GfK Roper Public Affairs and Media polls showed 54 percent of Americans cut back travel in 2008 because of gas prices. But, the Energy Information Administration’s April 2009 report says retail prices for April through September in 2009 are projected to average $2.23/gallon. With that 40% decrease in the cost of gas, 2009 summer travel should see a significant boost.

AAA travel and auto group forecasted a 1.5 percent rise in travel compared with 2008 for the U.S. Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial beginning of the traditional summer driving season. The trend is expected to continue during the major summer travel holidays of the Fourth of July and Labor Day as lower fuel prices resuscitate the sensibility for folks to take a vacation.

If these predictions hold true, Panama City Beach should be a huge beneficiary of the travel trend. Drivers to Panama City Beach this Memorial Day weekend said the gas prices definitely impact their travel plans. “Gas prices change everything,” said Cindy Matheny, who drove to the Panama City Beach from Troy, Alabama to enjoy the weekend. She, with a car packed with kids, filled the tank of her van at the Chevron on the corner of North Lagoon and Joan Avenue. “We’ve come to Panama City Beach every summer. The price of gas determines how many trips we’ll take. You really have to weigh your options these days. Gas is still cheaper than last year and this economy needs the help.”

Flowrider Weeks away from Opening!

_mg_7515_2Located off of Miracle Strip Loop in Panama City Beach, the new Flowrider attraction we’ve all been waiting for is coming closer to opening each day.  Miracle Strip Loop is right across from Wal-Mart on the Beach and the Shubee Flowrider is in the center of the “loop.”  The Flowrider is a stationary structure that is shaped with a smooth slope that provides the ideal surf conditions with a special board as water is thrusted over the shape.

Ok, so maybe “weeks” is a little of a stretch, but the projected open date should come end of June, depending on the weather.

Just late last week the concrete form was poored for the Flowrider structure.  12 feet tall at the back, the structure goes about 6 feet into the ground and will house the monstrous equipment that is responsible for pumping 75,000 gallons of water each and every minute over a shape that is said to form a perfect wave.  The material is a “composite membrane riding surface” that is “soft and flexible like a trampoline,” padding your fall, should you feel the need to. I read the water travels over the surface at 25 to 35 mph.

Reading around, it would seem that the Flowrider puts surfers, skaters, snowboarders and skimmers on “equal” ground, er- water.  The board is different than a skim or surf board, picture a larger skateboard, with no wheels or trucks and not as much curvature on the nose or tail.

The Flowrider being installed here will be a “double” Flowrider, with a capacity of 55,000 gallons.

The concrete form that will house the Flowrider requires a larger than usual cure time and should be ready next week sometime.  When its ready, they’ll pour the rest of the concrete and the steel building should go up pretty quick.

No word on pricing yet, but I did hear talk of 24 hour marathon runs during peak high seasons and hints at some competitions.  You can be sure that you’ll find all the updates here.  This will definitely be a cool addition to our growing area.

Pier Park Summer Concert Series Schedule

The 2010 Summer Concert Series Schedule has been announced.  Click here to view the schedule.

052509_pierpark_summer_concerts_smallDust off those ears and be sure to show up wax free for the summer concert series Thusday nights at Aaron Bessant Park at Pier Park in Panama City Beach.  The fourth year running, I’m always pleasantly surprised at the phenomenal turnout each week.

If you are looking for an awesome way to spend some outdoors time with your family, this is the place to go.  From 7 to 9 pm every Thursday, bands from Reggae to Blues to New Grass to R&B will be lighting up the stage and filling the air with sweet music.

The first of the twelve series shows will be on June 4th and carry through the summer to August 20th.  Don’t forget to bring your picnic blanket, picnic dinner and coolers!

Schedule:

De Lions of Jah – Raggae – June 4th

Eric Lindell – Blues/Rock – June 11th

Rollin in the Hay – New Grass – June 18th

Cyril Neville (of the Neville Brothers) – R&B/Rock – June 25th

The Lee Griffin Band – R&B/Rock – July 2nd

PBS – New Orleans Fund – July 9th

The Legendary JC’s – Soul/R&B – July 16th

King Cotton Blues Band – Blues – July 23rd

The Donnie Sundal Project – Variety – July 30th

Beachmice – Eclectic Acoustic – August 6th

Heat and the Zydeco Gents – Zydeco – August 13th

Geneva – 80’s Rock –