New Tourism Strategic Plan for Panama City Beach Released

Looking into the future creates feelings of excitement and anticipation.  Dreaming of what prosperity may come from careful planning and growth makes me all giddy inside.  At last week’s TDC meeting, the revised strategic plan was released that discusses the vision of 2020 in Panama City Beach and how we’ll get there.

This new plan is updated from the last plan that was released in 2008.  So, as you can imagine, we have a much better idea as to where we are and where we’re going.

The Vision of PCB in 2020
  • Maintain our place as the world’s most beautiful beaches.
  • Maintain high visitor occupancy while not exceeding the destination’s carrying capacity.
  • Continued diversification of our tourism product to create additional demand
    • New sports and event venues designed to drive increased destination appeal in the shoulder and off-seasons
    • Increased ecotourism and nature-based recreation access to the St. Andrew Bay and the Gulf of Mexico
    • Development of additional attractions, cultural & heritage resources, and other tourism amenities.
  • Enhance primary gateways that welcome visitors, create a sense of place, deliver the brand message and direct first-time visitors to the visitor center
  • Consistent directional signage throughout the destination.
  • Continue CRA improvements along Front Beach Road
  • Redevelopment of abandoned and dilapidated property in core visitor areas.
  • Consistent visitor occupancy in the 55% to 85% range year-round.
Key Initiatives to Achieve Vision
  1. Preserve and enhance the Beach, the most important natural resource of Panama City Beach.
  2. Enhance the visitor experience.
  3. Develop and market Panama City Beach as a year-round destination.
  4. Enhance and develop public venues to generate additional visitor demand.

Preserve and Enhance the Beach

  • Preserve and protect the water, sand, dunes and access paths.
  • Work with local, state, and federal agencies to secure permits necessary to conduct future beach renourishment activities.
  • Increase awareness of the beach and near-shore areas as wildlife habitat, for sea turtles, shorebirds, etc.
  • Enhance and improve trash removal and beach maintenance activities.
    • Investigate trash receptacles to replace the existing cans that provide the same function that are more visually pleasing
    • Develop an Adopt-A-Beach program to encourage partner and stakeholder support for beach maintenance and protection.
    • Discourage littering of all types, including glass bottles and cigarette butts on the beach and beach access points.
  • Public Information – Beach & Surf Conditions
    • Create materials to educate travelers about the beach and surf conditions, including surf conditions, leave no trace ordinance (signs, maps, website, guides, in-room video).
    • Enhanced Beach & Surf Patrols to increase public awareness of surf conditions, rip currents, Leave No Trace Ordinances, and other issues of importance to beach goers.
  • RESTORE Act/NRDA
    • Work with Bay County and local stakeholders on environmental enhancement and restoration projects that benefit Panama City Beach, St. Andrew Bay and the Gulf of Mexico

Enhance Visitor Experience

  • Deliver on the destination brand – “Real. Fun. Beach”. Most aspects of the PCB community should enhance a family vacation experience.
  • Collaborate with local governments and community leaders on policies that enhance the perception of Panama City Beach as a hospitable, safe, fun, beautiful vacation destination.
  • Enhance local transportation systems to ease visitors travel to and throughout the destination.
    • Gateways that deliver on the brand, welcome and direct travelers to information.
    • Directional signage – keep visitors moving efficiently through the community.
    • Road infrastructure and traffic enhancements – move traffic efficiently while protecting the safety of pedestrians and cyclists.
    • Landscaping & beautification – a well maintained coastal landscape will inspire pride and better visitor behavior.
  • Encourage the redevelop of abandoned and condemned real estate in primary visitor beach front locations. Improve curb appeal, add new activities/businesses, improved safety.
  • Improve and expand on family attractions and outdoor experiences that complement the brand.

Year-round Destination

  • Expanded and targeted research-based marketing program.
    • Establish marketing priorities by season: Summer, Fall, Winter, Spring.
    • Partner with airlines to drive increased fly-in visitation from target markets.
  • Programming of events in shoulder and off season.
    • Festivals and concert events.
  • Expanded team sports and group sales initiatives emphasizing events during slower occupancy periods.
  • Build on fun elements in brand by promoting celebrations of holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, reunions, etc. to attract families and groups.
  • Feature ecotourism opportunities, including sea kayaking and snorkeling/diving as unique reasons to visit Panama City Beach that go beyond the traditional beach experience.
    • Encourage the redevelopment of existing attractions and the addition of complementary attractions.

Enhance Public Venues

  • Sports Facilities
    • Expand amateur athletic fields for softball, baseball at Frank Brown Park or new facility.
    • Develop rectangular fields for soccer, lacrosse, field hockey and other field sports.
    • Develop multi-purpose facility to host sports tournaments, concert events, exhibitions, boat shows and social events.
  • Utilization of Improvements to Aaron Bessant Park.
    • Work with the City and other stakeholders on events – concerts, festivals, theatrical performances, and athletic tournaments – in Aaron Bessant Park that will drive incremental visitation to Panama City Beach.
  • Encourage development of ecotourism opportunities on West Bay, as well as the Gulf of Mexico, includes but not limited to:
    • Non-motorized boat ramps.
    • A series of artificial reef systems for snorkeling, diving and fishing.
  • Work with local, state and regional stakeholders to encourage the further diversification of Panama City Beach’s tourism economy and environmental restoration through RESTORE Act and NRDA investments.

The Awesome Conservation Park and Trail System You Knew Nothing About

While we’ve been bustling and hustling, the city municipality rolled out a huge conservation park and trail system that winds around a large array of retention ponds and natural Florida forestry   With 24 miles of trails to walk or bike, the trail system offers a very unique opportunity to get to know our local ecosystem.

Location of Conservation Park

The park is located on the west end of the Panama City Beach city boundaries, about a mile west of Highway 79.  If you travel west on Panama City Beach Parkway (Back Beach Road) and take a right just after you pass the La Quinta Inn, Griffin Blvd will dead-end right at the park.  The entrance to Griffin Blvd is adorned with a St. Joe Commerce Park sign.  Concurrently, Conservation Park is practically at the end of the Gayle’s Trails system that runs along old Power Line Road.

The Trail System

There are 5 trails in all, ranging in difficulty from “easiest” to “most difficult”, and they range in distance from less than 2 miles to 11 miles, respectively.

  • Green Trail: Less than 2 miles
  • Yellow Trail: 4 to 7 miles
  • Blue Trail: 5.2 to 6.5 miles
  • Orange Trail: 9 to 11 miles
  • Red Trail: 11 miles

In all, there are endless options for varying routes through the trail system, and one can easily spend weeks (nay months), seeing all there is to see.  But if you want to stick with the map, there are 12 trails in all mapped out.

The trails were refined from old logger paths that were already cut into the area years ago, with boardwalks being constructed in areas that weren’t dry to make sure everything stayed connected.

View the park brochure and trails explanation here.

The Parks Functional Reason for Being

Aside from being an awesome place to recreate, the park serves a functional purpose that is environmentally beneficial to both west bay and the conservation ecosystem.  Conservation Park totals in area approximately 3,000 acres, which quoting the City’s page on the park, is about twice the area the Bay County city of Parker encompasses.

Further quoting the page: 

In early 2011, after nearly a decade of planning, designing, permitting and constructing, the City completely stopped discharging reclaimed water from the Wastewater Treatment Facility into West Bay. This redirection of water to Conservation Park will protect the water quality of the Bay while helping to restore the altered hydrology of the natural lands at the Park. The City and its residents take pride in knowing they’re leading the way to a cleaner and healthier Bay.

A pump station, designed with the ability to pump up to 18,000,000 gallons of highly treated water per day, was constructed at the City’s Wastewater Treatment Facility on the north end of Gulf Boulevard. The pump station includes two pool areas (wetwells) to collect water not used for irrigation in the City. Once collected in the pools, pumps send the water through a 3 foot diameter pipe to Conservation Park.

There are a total of six pumps at the pump station–2 small pumps and 4 large pumps. The small pumps are designed to operate when flow at the Wastewater Treatment Facility are low such as late at night. The larger pumps will be used during high flow times such as in the morning, during summer months, and holiday weekends. Each pump includes a motor at the top that drives a vertical turbine pump which extends down into one of the pools.

The pump station site is also the location of the Gulf Boulevard Trail Head which is part of the City’s Gayle’s Trails System. This area includes a public parking lot and trail signage and information for Trail users accessing the Trail System from this location.

Transmission Main Pipe

A 3 ft (36 in) diameter Transmission Main pipe carries the reclaimed water from the City’s Reclaimed Water Pump Station five miles to Conservation Park. The installation of this pipe included bends and valves weighing more than 7000 pounds each. The Transmission Main route was completed with a paved trail on top of the pipe. This trail is part of the City’s Gayle’s Trails System with connections to the Highway 79 Trail, Frank Brown Park Trail, and Gulf Boulevard Trail Head. The base material beneath portions of the asphalt is crushed concrete recycled and reused from the former Fiesta Motel on Panama City Beach.

Public Building

A 4,400 square foot building was constructed at the southeast corner of the Park. This building functions as a shelter for Park users and provides public restroom facilities. The building also provides a useful space for City staff and equipment needed to keep the Park maintained for all residents and tourists. The 3 foot diameter Reclaimed Water Transmission Main divides into four different, smaller pipes inside the building. The manifold of the 3 foot diameter Reclaimed Water Transmission Main is located in a concrete pit inside the southwest corner of the building and divides the flow of reclaimed water into one of four areas in the Park. Each of the four pipes are color coded to coincide with a specific area in the Park and each area receives water on a rotation to rehydrate the wetland during different times of the year. The building includes three garage work areas and employee offices used to maintain and operate equipment necessary to properly run and maintain the Park. A chemical storage tank used as a final treatment method for the reclaimed water and a back-up power generator for the building are also located on the site.

Wetland Rehydration

There are 14 different discharge structures strategically placed around the Park to help distribute and rehydrate the wetlands on site. The hydrology of the site was altered during silviculture activities when the vegetation was changed and a large ditch dredged down the center of the Park site. Flow to the different discharge structures is rotated from the Control Building during different growing seasons during the year. Reuse water from the Control Building is conveyed through one of four pipe systems ranging in pipe size from 15 to 30 inches. The pipes follow along trails in the Park and terminate at one of the discharge structures.

What do you think?

Tell us in the comments what you think of the park.  Have you been there?  Share with us some of your experiences you’ve had there.

23rd Annual Lobster Festival is THIS WEEKEND

Every year the thought of Lobster Fest makes my mouth water, and every year it comes and goes bringing smiles, fun and full bellies.  The 23rd annual Lobster Fest is this weekend behind the ever famously popular Schooners.

Here’s all the details (Press Release)

Panama City Beach, FL – Every year in September, Schooners, The Last Local Beach Club, hosts the largest 4 day Lobster Festival & Tournament in Florida. This year the 23rd Annual Lobster Festival will be held September 13, 14, 15 & 16th.

Schooners Lobster Festival and Tournament has always been a local favorite, but now as the festival continues to grow in popularity, there is an effort to attract visitors from all over the South East to come and enjoy the festivities and take advantage of Panama City’s beautiful beaches and seafood.

Divers from all over the country will compete in a variety of lobster categories including Spiny Lobster, Big 6 and Shovelnose, with an opportunity to win cash and prizes totaling over $10,000. Weigh-ins will be from 3-6pm on Saturday and Noon-3pm on Sunday.

There will be a “mini” lobster feast served on Saturday, with the famous traditional Lobster Feast beginning at Noon on Sunday. A special Schooners menu has been developed for all the fresh local lobster that will be harvested by the divers.

The festivities will kick off on Thursday with live entertainment on the beach and the Schooners main stage.

From kids to grandparents, Schooners Lobster Festival and Tournament is four days of non-stop fun – and, although the Lobsters are at the heart of it – it’s a lot more than just that.

On the beach there will be a giant Lobster Festival sand sculpture – one of the biggest in the Southeast as well as a sand sculpting competition on Saturday for enthusiastic amateurs competing for cash and prizes.

Live entertainment starts Thursday with Solshine performing on the Beach Stage followed by Arizona on the Main Stage. Friday afternoon DJ Dave Tracy spins dance music from the Beach Stage with Arizona performing again on the Main Stage. Saturday, The Barry Fish Band will start the afternoon entertainment followed by Cool Rayz on the Beach Stage and then Arizona on the Main Stage. Sunday the Cool Rayz preforms on the Beach Stage, followed by the famous Swingin Medallions.

Proceeds from the event will benefit two local youth oriented charities; Florida Aquatic & Marine Institute (FAMI) and the Toys for Kids Foundation.

Admission to the event is free and open to the public. FEAST tickets are $25 each

Isaac Benefit at C-Level this Saturday

A hurricane can change your life forever, and no one knows that more than Shane Johns, local musician who is originally from New Orleans, Louisiana.

So this Saturday he is going to use the other powerful force of nature he has…..his music…. to help bring people together on Saturday for he victims of Hurricane Isaac.  When I saw his level of enthusiasm and compassion about his fellow Gulf Coast residents….well, I had to share it with you.

 

I ran into Shane a couple nights ago at Hook’d Pier Bar and that is where he shared about a benefit he and some fellow musicians are a part of this Saturday, September 15th at C-Level Bar and Grill of Thomas Drive in Panama City Beach.

The family friendly event will have something all ages including raffle prizes, snow cones, and a bounce house for the little ones.  The fun begins at 11 am on Saturday and doesn’t end until closing time.

There will be live, original music by Shane Johns, Faust, DJ Fatt and other guests.

Guests are encouraged to bring much needed items such as:

Non-perishable goods

Clothing

Cat and Dog food

If you are moved to help or maybe you can not go on Saturday but you would like to contribute in some way….call  Celeste Sphar 850-303-5602.

I had heard of Shane before, but didn’t know  a lot about him, so after he shared the event information for our wonderful PCB Daily readers, I asked him if he could answer a few questions and quench my curiosity.

Our little Q and A is below for those of you that are curious like me.

Q: Ok, so I know you  have been a solo artist for many years but who have you been working with lately?

A: I have been performing with a trio called Lounge Act recently and while we work with featured artists as well, our main line up is  myself, Shane Johns: Guitar,  Vocals: Jordan Faust: Vocals, Guitar: Chris Peralta: Bass and Vocal.  Jordan was born and raised in Panama City Beach.  Chris was born and raised in Miami, while I was born in Atlanta but grew up in New Orleans.  But we all have the same mission to bring original music to Panama City Beach.

Q: For  those of us that are not familiar with your music, could you tell us about the style?

A: Our style is acoustic based alternative rock and beach rap but we do not have a specific genre, our  music can go from jazz to blues to rock to rap.

Q: What inspired you to help Hurricane Isaac victims?

A: Being from New Orleans, I have close friends there and other coastal parts in Louisiana, they are like family. I was around for Katrina and Gustav and dealt with its’ aftermath.

Q: Have you done a benefit like this before?

A: Yes,  I have performed for many relief benefits in the past. I enjoy performing with the purpose (sic) of helping people in need.

Q: So refresh us again , when are you playing on Saturday?

A: We open the benefit at C-level on Thomas Drive at 11 am and then we are on again at 6 pm at Hook’ed Pier Bar at Pier Park.

 

I found Shane to be a  gracious young artist and am looking forward to seeing what he does in the future.  He performs a lot locally in Panama City Beach and the tri-state area.  You can hear his music on Reverbnation or check Faust out on Youtube.

If you can not make it to C-level this Saturday and want to help his Hurricane Isaac Relief Efforts, call Celeste Spar at 850-303-5602.

 

 

 

 

 

Battleship Crossfit – Welcome to the Gun Show

Working out has never been as exhilarating and rewarding an experience as you will find at Battleship Crossfit.

Big time energy, power and passion are the standards at Battleship, and already locals are feeling the power and getting fit. According to Eberle Funches, one of Battleship’s owners, “We set our goals and we have already exceeded them.”

CrossFit describes its strength and conditioning program as “constantly varied, high intensity, functional movement, with the stated goal of improving fitness. Workouts are typically short—20 minutes or less—and intense, demanding all-out physical exertion. They combine movements such as sprinting, rowing, jumping rope, climbing rope, weightlifting, and carrying odd objects; they use barbells,dumbbells, gymnastics rings, pull-up bars, kettlebells, medicine balls, and many bodyweight exercises. In my short foray into CrossFit I have noticed that they seem to have their own language and an extreme passion for this brand of fitness.

Eberle, Wil and Mike admittedly have the same teaching style and according to Eberle and Mike it is part of teaching the proper technique. They explained to me that, “There is only one way and that is the right way.” How awesome is that!!!! They teach Olympic lifting so that those who participate can choose to compete or just use Crossfit as a way to enhance their life and health and fitness. Mike added that, “Olympic weight lifting is essential to the program because it is part of the crossfit games.”

If you have been aching to try the intense crossfit workout and experience the enthusiasm and excitement, there is no better time than this Saturday, September 15, 2012, when Crossfit will be hosting their GRAND OPENING CELEBRATION.

Contact Battleship

Battleship Cross Fit
7521 Holley Circle
Panama City Beach Florida 32408
GRAND OPENING Saturday September 15, 2012 9am

Share the Shelter Music Fest Hits 30A

Shelter House and Alaqua Animal Refuge are joining forces once again to raise awareness and funds to save the lives of people and animals impacted by violence in Okaloosa and Walton counties. The 2nd Annual Share the Shelter Music Fest will take place Saturday, September 29 at Gulf Place on 30A in Santa Rosa Beach.

Concert goers should expect a full day of music, art, food and fun. Gates open at 11 am with performances running from noon to 10 pm.

In addition to music, the festival will feature local food vendors and artists with selections ranging from jewelry to clothing to refurbished furniture. A bounce house will be on-site for the kids to enjoy.

Invite Friends with their  Event Page.

 

Performers include: Geoff McBride of NBC’s “The Voice” , singer and songwriter of hits such as “American Honkey Tonk Bar Association” Bryan Kennedy; Florida GRAMMY Showcase winner Chris Alvarado; and 2012 Best Band on the Emerald Coast in Emerald Coast Magazine Heritage. Kelsey Anna, Boukou Groove, Megan McCormick, Forrest Williams and Daphne Willis round out the lineup.

 General admission tickets are $25 for adults and $10 for children (ages 2 to 12). VIP tickets are $125 and include VIP lounge seating, food and drinks. The VIP section sold out last year, so be sure to purchase your pass early.

Leashed dogs are also welcome at this year’s concert. VIP Pooch Passes are available for $20 and include access to the VIP lounge (with human VIP) and a Puppy Pampering Bag with treats. Advance tickets are on sale now and can be purchased online at www.sharetheshelter.org. There will be an additional $5 charge for tickets purchased at the gate.

Like the Share the Shelter Facebook page for the latest updates on musicians, vendors and more.

 The 2011 concert drew more than 500 music fans and brought in over $21,000 for Shelter House and Alaqua Animal Refuge.

Hurricane Isaac Photos

I know, I know.  I asked for them more than a week ago and am just now getting up the gallery.  I’m sorry.  But. . .

Hurricane Isaac came through here with nary a detriment, much more than some beach erosion and a thankful temperament.

We asked our readers to share with us some pictures, and here are some of the best of them!  Thanks to all that shared, feel free to take claim in the comments!