All posts by Dwayne Piergiovanni

FWC biologists would like your help in their scallop restoration efforts.

From the MyFWC:

Bay scallops (Argopecten irradians) may have a short life, typically only living for about a year, but they play a big role in the economies of many coastal, Floridian towns, like Steinhatchee and Port St. Joe. In 2016, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (MyFWC) biologists began a 10-year project to restore bay scallops in Florida’s Panhandle. The initial effort for this restoration project is focused in St. Joseph and St. Andrew Bays. If you are a member of the community surrounding St. Joseph or St. Andrew Bay, you can help by volunteering to become a ‘scallop-sitter’ and maintain your own cage with scallops in your bay!

Project Goal: To increase depleted scallop populations in some bays and reintroduce scallops in other suitable areas from which scallops have disappeared.

How we restore scallops

  • FWC biologists place wild and hatchery-raised scallops in cages in the bay.
  • Cages protect scallops from predation.
  • Cages likely increase the number of offspring produced, increasing the population size over time.
FWC biologists currently have more than 50 predator exclusion cages in St. Joseph Bay

Project Details:

  • Volunteers will maintain scallops in cages from April 2018 – Jan 2019.
  • Cages will be placed either on your own private dock or in the bay using a boat or kayak.
  • FWC will provide cages, scallops, and training during our workshop in April 2018.
  • Together, we will help restore scallops in these bays.

What does it take to be a volunteer?

1) Live near St. Andrew or St. Joseph Bay from April 2018 – January 2019.

2) Access to the Bay: either a private dock, boat or kayak.

3) Willing and able to clean scallop shells once a month.

4) Attend or view via webinar FWC’s Scallop Restoration Workshop in April 2018.

If you are interested in becoming a scallop sitter in Gulf or Bay county please email us.

Reduce Human-Bear Conflicts: Bear Wise Funding For Gulf County

Gulf County, in cooperation with Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (MyFWC) and Waste Pro, has developed a plan to install bear resistant clips to existing trash receptacles, in order to reduce human-bear conflicts. The following information is available on this pilot program:

PROJECT DESCRIPTION:
Gulf County will purchase a kit (set of 2 metal gate hasps and installation hardware) to be installed on either side of a regular 96-gallon tote, which will be attached to both the lid and the can. Residents can obtain the kits as follows:

1. Residents can pick them up at Gulf County EDC/Grants at 1000 Cecil G Costin Sr Blvd, Port St. Joe, Monday-Thursday from 7:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., E.T.

2. Each resident will be required to fill out a form stating their name, address and the number of kits received, along with their signature verifying their correct information and receipt of the product. (Application)

3. Applications must be returned to Gulf County BOCC, Administration, Attention: Lianna Sagins, 1000 Cecil G. Costin Sr., Blvd., Room 312, Port St. Joe, FL 32456. (850) 229-6144, Monday-Thursday, 7:00 a.m.-5:30 p.m., E.T.

4. Residents are responsible for installing the equipment on the cans. The procedure on trash day will be that the resident will unlock the can(s) on the morning of trash pick-up. This program will only work if everyone works together in order to create a smooth transition.

Everyone’s Input Needed: Results from the Public Meeting Concerning Enhancing the Amenities at Salinas Park on Cape San Blas, FL

First, the public has an unique opportunity to really enjoy a variety of amenities at Salinas Park because of the funding being brought to this area from the Gulf Spill Restoration program. This opportunity to have a say in what amenities should be included in upgrading Salinas Park is discussed a little further down.

But first, there are some exciting amenities being added to the Salinas Park. One such new feature is an impressive elevated boardwalk which will extend along the new 6.6 acres of land that will be added to Salinas Park. This boardwalk will be a great attraction to the park. A description of the boardwalk is as follows:

Three trail heads near the adjacent road comprised of a 450-square foot concrete pad and a few amenities such as a trash receptacle, bike rack and repair stand, bike pump, water misting station, and water fountain. The trailheads are to be strategically located to support access from the adjacent paved trail.

Example of an elevated boardwalk

Elevated boardwalk of 10 feet x 1,200 lineal feet (12,000 square feet), including:
10-foot wide elevated wood boardwalk at 1percent grade, rising to 13 feet above grade.

  • 6-foot wide elevated wood boardwalk 1-2 feet above grade with curb.
  • 300 square-foot observation platform at 13.6 feet above grade.
  • 300 square-foot observation platform at 14feet above grade.
  • A peak 400 square-foot observation platform at 15 feet above grade with seating.
  • A 140 square-foot platform for maintenance vehicle turn around.

Trail extension from the existing parking area in Salinas Park to the trailhead (made of shell). See photo below.

Draft plans for the elevated boardwalk

We are so excited about this new park feature!
Second, which is a very important part of this project and kind of like the elephant in the room, are the courts that will be added to Salinas Park. As is shown in the photo, the courts that are currently but tentatively included in the draft plans are pickleball courts. There is a push being made for adding pickleball courts but not really including any other type of court to the park through this funding. However, other courts can most certainly be included in the new amenities of the park. For this to be accomplished though, the public needs to submit their recommendations to the National Park Service. This can be done here:

https://parkplanning.nps.gov/document.cfm?parkID=534&projectID=75938&documentID=83892

Proposed pickle ball courts

When giving your recommendation(s), you do not have to provide your name–just what amenity you would prefer to see or what you would think is the best amenity or amenities for Salinas Park.

Current Playground at Salinas Park. There are 2 identical playgrounds one on the Bayside and one on the Gulfside.

For example, do you think a basketball court, a tennis court, a full ecotourism playground (see photo), a pickleball court, all of the above, remove one from the list, etc, etc would be great to include in the upgrading of Salinas Park? Then, by all means, send that recommendation to the National Park Service. THE DEADLINE FOR SUBMITTING RECOMMENDATIONS IS DECEMBER 8TH.

Example of an ecotourism Full Playground

By having a variety of court options, locals will have a variety of amenities to enjoy throughout the year with their family and friends in a beautiful location. What courts would appeal to the locals who are here full-time? If you are a local, what appeals to you?

Something else to keep in mind is this: Demographics. By far, the largest demographic of people who visit our beautiful peninsula are family units between Spring and Fall. These families consists of parents with younger children and parents on vacation with their older children who are in their 20s and 30s but they fill up Cape San Blas. No other time is Cape San Blas filled up like it is in season. What would be some of the amenities that would appeal to the largest group of people–the families–who visit the area? What would your family enjoy the most?

One suggestion at the meeting was to build a tennis court and then include the lines for a pickleball court inside the tennis court. This is done at other parks and it is easy to do because a tennis court is considerably larger than a pickleball court.

At the end of the day, it is important to think about what options will appeal to the most people: having only one type of court or a variety of courts? It is up to the people who would like to see a variety of courts brought to Salinas Park to make that known by submitting their recommendation to the National Park Service. Because the deadline for submitting recommendations is December 8th, we are going to keep our poll going concerning Salinas Park’s enhancement until December 8th. You can participate in the poll here:

https://parkplanning.nps.gov/document.cfm?parkID=534&projectID=75938&documentID=83892

To listen to a full recording of the meeting, click on the link here: https://ftpportal.dep.state.fl.us/public/file/GhppWh5vb0CMctTt9vY5OA/Phase%20V.2%20Public%20Meeting%2011-16-17.MP3 The password to use is Salinas. Fast forward 45 minutes to get to the public comment portion of the meeting.

We hope everyone will submit his or her recommendations. Please share with your family and friends. DEADLINE IS DECEMBER 8TH.

The Monarch Butterfly And Its Migration Over Cape San Blas, FL

During the Fall on Cape San Blas, FL, all of a sudden, a rolling wave of stunning orange begins to cover the lush green woods all around covering various flowers, trees and other plants. Monarch butterflies are making their migration straight over Cape San Blas. It is a beautiful sight to see. Yet, just how far do these butterflies fly from and where are they going?

Scores of monarch butterflies migrate from Canada to a certain forest in Mexico—that is a distance of some 1,800 miles! How can they possibly know how to travel such a distance to a particular forest without getting off course over the many days it takes to arrive at their destination? By using the sun.

Though their brains are the size of a ballpoint pen, they have been designed with the capabilities to compensate for the sun’s movement by using a circadian clock. This is a biological function based on a 24-hour day that makes corrections for the sun’s movement.

Their Usefulness
Each year, the millions of monarch butterflies pollinate millions of plants—assisting in the reproduction of an enormous amount of plants.

The Reign of the King of Butterflies May Soon Come to an End

According to researchers, the particular monarch butterfly that takes the incredible migration across North America is undergoing a sharp population decline. What are some of the causes for this sad situation?

Milkweed, Avocados and More
Once the butterflies arrive to their destination in Mexico, they must lay their eggs on a specific plant called milkweed. When the monarch larvae hatch, they feed on milkweed leaves.

However, milkweed plants in the Mexican states of Michoacan and Mexico, where the butterflies finish their migration, are disappearing. The herbicides used on corn and soybean fields are killing the milkweed plants.

Another threat are avocados. Yep, avocados. The livelihood of many people is dependent on avocado plantations. Because avocados are a high demand product, some forests are being replaced by avocado plantations. Which, in certain areas of Mexico, is negatively affecting the monarch because a forest they once descended upon is now gone.

Other factors such as disease, parasites and certain weather conditions that have affected North America in recent years are also hurting the king of butterflies.

What Is Being Done?
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been asked to place this particular type of monarch on the Endangered Species Act. Others are creating butterfly habitats by planting milkweed.

So, don’t be fooled by its soft, lightweight body—for the monarch butterfly is remarkably resilient and instinctively wise. Let’s hope we do not loss this treasure for good one day.

Local History: “The Lost City”—Port St. Joe, FL.

“The Lost City”

Atlantis, El Dorado, etc. These are popular lost cities as part of legends. Some of these lost cities disappearances were said to be caused by usually strong natural disasters. For example, a huge earthquake was said to sink Atlantis to the bottom of the ocean.

However, what people are not so acquainted with is Gulf County’s, in particularly Port St Joe’s, perplexing history in the 1800s and how some of the events that took place almost 200 years ago still effect Gulf County today. We are referring to a real place that has come to be called The Lost City—St. Joseph.

The Largest City in Florida—For Real?!

In 1838, St. Joseph, now called Port St. Joe, was the largest city in Florida with some 12,000 people—Port St. Joe was larger in 1838 than today even 179 years later! Wealthy businessmen from Apalachicola moved to establish St. Joseph. Unlike Apalachicola, since a major river did not empty into St. Joseph Bay, these men built a railroad to support the economy. In fact, Port St. Joe was home to the first railroad in Florida.

In 1838, because of its prominence, Florida’s constitution was drafted, not at the capital of Florida-Tallahassee, but in Port St. Joe. Six years later, Florida officially became the 27th state. The city had wealth, a beautiful environment, magnificent homes, thriving businesses, etc. How could it get any better?

When Yellow Was The New Black

As soon as Port St. Joe began to bask in its success and prominence, an unexpected turn of events followed. The economy sank. In just a few years the population dropped from 12,000 in 1838 to around 5,000-6,000 in 1841.

photo-1Then, in 1841, Yellow Fever blanketed the city. The illness spared no one—rich, poor, white, black, men, women, farmer, politician, child, elder, etc. After Yellow Fever struck in 1841, Port St. Joe was left with a population of only about 400 or so in 1842. While humans at this time in history seemed to thrive off of separating each other based on race, gender, etc, nature, via Yellow Fever, powerfully demonstrated and reminded everyone that all humans are equal.

photo-2
Obituary momument of those buried in St. Joseph Cemetery

Bet You Didn’t Know: To this day, Port St. Joe currently maintains segregated cemeteries—Forest Hill is used for black people and Holly Hill used for white people. Though, technically and legally, anyone today can purchase a lot in either cemetery—in practice physically, socially and culturally, the cemeteries do not mix races. The practice of segregation at death is very much alive…no pun intended.

There is also a historical cemetery in Port St. Joe that was designated for those who died due to the grievous Yellow Fever.

photo-3To make matters worse, in the Fall of 1841, a fire ravaged the town and forest in St. Joseph.

Hurricane and “Tidal Wave”

In 1844, a hurricane swept through Port St. Joe. This devastated what was remaining of the city. After this, Port St. Joe basically became non-existent. The storm surge was so powerful, that many people describe what happened as a “tidal wave”.

Natural Disasters or Divine Retribution?

Though most people today would say that Port St. Joe was the victim of an unprecedented sequence of natural events with no divine hand attached to it, to many in the 1800s, the intense and unusual series of events that resulted in the demise of Port St. Joe was on the level of Biblical proportions—as if God was pushing the city for corruption of all kinds. As a wealthy port city, it encompassed all the vices that come with that designation. St. Joseph was known as “sin city”. Clergymen from around the country preached that God had destroyed the city.

A Chicago newspaperman wrote: “The sun shone brightly over the wrecked ambitious work of man. Death’s Angel, the hurricane, had completed the work begun by its brother, Pestilence (yellow fever), and buried beneath the sands of the sea, or swept to the four winds of Heaven, all that remained of the proud young city of St. Joseph.” (George Mortimer West in his story published in 1922 entitled, “Old St. Jo.”)

Modern Day

Port St. Joe now stands as a popular small town in which scores of people travel through, especially going to Cape San Blas, FL. It has bounced back in many ways, in particularly with respect to tourism. While it in no way is close to the largest city in Florida, it maintains unique charm that large cities cannot touch.

It is hoped that history will not repeat itself when it comes to the previous series of natural disasters that destroyed The Lost City.

photo-4
Forest Hill Cemetery. Traditional “Black Cemetery”.
photo-5
Holly Hill Cemetery. Traditional “White Cemetery”.

Hurricane Preparedness Checklist

Download Hurricane Preparedness Checklist (.pdf)

Turtle Season, Red Snapper Season, Scallop Season, etc all of these are seasons people look forward to, get excited about and are happy to experience. However, there is another season that has just the opposite affect on people: Hurricane Season.

Hurricane Season runs from June 1 to November 30. Unlike some natural disasters, though, people can have a good game plan, in which, if a strong enough hurricane does strike, people can be reasonably prepared to function if power and water are not immediately made available after the storm.

With that in mind, attached is a simple Hurricane Preparedness Checklist. This basic checklist can prove to be invaluable if or when a hurricane makes landfall. Here are 5 tips to help reduce stress in the event of a hurricane (See Infographic Below):

  • Medical Supplies: Have at least 30 days worth of medicine and medical supplies set aside. Prescriptions should be filled well before the storm hits.
  • Money: Have cash on hand. With no electricity or power, ATMs and credit cards will not work.
  • Car & Gasoline: Fill up your vehicle and possibly a gas can. If the power goes out, you will be unable to get gas. Also, if you have a generator, fill it up with gas.
  • Batteries & Communication: Make sure that cell phones, tablets, radios, etc are all fully charged and that there are backups of batteries.
  • Food & Water: There should be enough food and water to last each person for a week.

There are also other factors that you may wish to consider and become familiar with such as the evacuation routes, the contact information of various emergency or law enforcement establishments, etc. Pertaining to Gulf County, FL, important local contact information would include:

For more in depth and thorough information on hurricane preparedness, please visit the National Hurricane Center and the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) websites.

Pirates of Cape San Blas, Florida

U.S. Revenue Cutter Gallatin, photographed in 1855, was active on the Southeastern coast at the time of the pirate attack.  Courtesy U.S. Coast Guard.
U.S. Revenue Cutter Gallatin, photographed in 1855, was active on the Southeastern coast at the time of the pirate attack. Courtesy U.S. Coast Guard.
Pirates at St. Marks, Florida! for the story of the attack on the General Parkhill.

The Revenue Service, predecessor of today’s U.S. Coast Guard, then had two revenue cutters at St. Marks. These vessels were operating in conjunction with the U.S. Army to suppress trading with the Creek and Seminole warriors who were fighting against the United States in the Panhandle and Big Bend regions of Florida. The Second Seminole War was in its third year and the military was no closer to finding and capturing these Native American parties than it had been when the war started.

The two cutters set out from St. Marks to find the pirates, their crews reinforced by detachments of U.S. soldiers from the military post there. The vessels turned west through St. George Sound and it was not long before they spotted some of the pirates. The officers had donned civilian dress to hide their identities and were able to convince two of the pirates to come aboard:

…The day was calm, and feeling sure of the pirates, all hands went down to dinner, leaving two negro men on deck with them, who it is supposed gave the pirates information of the pursuit and enabled them to escape. When the officers came on deck they found our boat and her crew of murderers at least two miles to windward of them, making for the shore, and a light wind had sprung up which prevented the schooner from giving chase to them. – (Letter from Capt. John Barney, March 6, 1839).

Waterfront of Apalachicola, where the pirates stopped on their way to Cape San Blas.

Waterfront of Apalachicola, where the pirates stopped on their way to Cape San Blas.
Waterfront of Apalachicola, where the pirates stopped on their way to Cape San Blas.
The pirates headed west to Apalachicola, where their boat was spotted a day or two later. They appear to have come ashore, either for supplies or pleasure, before continuing their way west to Cape San Blas. There they unexpectedly came upon a completely different set of pirates:

…We have since then received information that they joined another set of pirates off Cape San Blas, who had also mutinied on board a brig at St. Josephs, killed the second mate, stole the boat and went on board and took possession of a fast sailing sloop, after driving the people belonging to her on shore, and ran away with her. At Cape San Blas they fell in with our beauties, who immediately joined them, and they have no doubt determined to carry on the trade of piracy to its fullest extent, as they were well armed. They were attacked by a pursuit whom they beat off. – (Letter from Capt. John Barney, March 6, 1839).

The Revenue cutters sailed west for Cape San Blas looking for the pirates and the fast sloop taken in the second bloody attack at St. Joseph. This historic seaport once stood on the site of today’s Port St. Joe, Florida. It is unknown whether the pirates coordinated the attacks off St. Marks and in St. Joseph Bay.

The historic cemetery is virtually all that remains of the famed “Lost City” of St. Joseph, Florida. The two men killed nearby by the pirates may have been buried here.

The historic cemetery is virtually all that remains of the famed “Lost City” of St. Joseph, Florida. The two men killed nearby by the pirates may have been buried here.
The historic cemetery is virtually all that remains of the famed “Lost City” of St. Joseph, Florida. The two men killed nearby by the pirates may have been buried here.
The U.S. crews soon came up with the pirates at a “creek” near St. Joseph:

…Two cutters were in search of them, together with the government and civil officers of the territory.
The cutters, it is supposed, drove them in near to St. Josephs, where they were attacked and all of them made prisoners by four constables and a posse of citizens. The place where they were captured was a low marshy spot, and a heavy growth of wood, on the wrong side of a creek to the nearest place where they could be taken and kept with safety, and the party were obliged to cross the creek, in order to keep clear of the Indians who are prowling about in all directions. – (Letter from Capt. John Barney, March 9, 1839).

The ongoing Seminole war also interfered with communications between St. Joseph and St. Marks. Barney reported that couriers of mails, newspapers and other intelligence had a very difficult time getting through due to the presence of warriors throughout the region.

Trapped up the unnamed creek, two of the officers took one of the pirates, a man named Joe Stirk, to look for a boat to be used to ferry the entire party across. Stirk used this as an opportunity to gain the trust of the officers so he could attempt a daring escape:

Cape San Blas has been a landmark to sailors of the Florida coast for hundreds of years.

Cape San Blas has been a landmark to sailors of the Florida coast for hundreds of years.
Cape San Blas has been a landmark to sailors of the Florida coast for hundreds of years.
…Stirk watched his opportunity, knocked one of the officers down, and compelled the other to runaway. He then returned to his fellow-murderers in the wood, and unseen by the persons having charge of them, cut their lashings and released them. The pirates then fell upon their keepers, killed two of them, and compelled the rest to run for their lives. – (Letter from Capt. John Barney, March 9, 1839).

The captured pirates having gained their freedom took a fast schooner somewhere near the mouth of St. Joseph Bay. They sailed it around to rejoin the sloop off Cape San Blas and both vessels soon set off on a “piratical cruise.”

The pirates had carried out at least three bloody attacks on the coast between St. Marks and St. Joseph. Several men had been killed and others were left badly wounded. They also had possession of two fast vessels, cash, goods, supplies and other booty. The open water of the Gulf of Mexico was before them.

Captain Wilson and his first mate, however, had not seen the last of the pirates. Their next meeting would be one of the strangest chances of fate in the history of piracy.

Original Posted on ExploreSouthernHistory.com

10 Questions Cape San Blasians Will Get Asked By At Least One Out-Of-Towner Every Year.

#1: Are there Sharks in the water on Cape San Blas, FL?

Now, unless Cape San Blas has a magical forcefield that keeps all the sharks that are in the Gulf of Mexico away from the water surrounding Cape San Blas with all of its yummy fish and other marine life to eat, then the answer to the question is: Yes, there are sharks in the water around Cape San Blas.

#2: Can Scallops bite you?

Scallops have insanely large teeth that protrude outside their…yeah, we can’t do this…No, scallops cannot bite you! At least, not in the sense of biting in the form of attacking someone. Of course, scallops use jet propulsion to move from point A to point B. So, in that case, if a person were to stick his or her finger in the scallop’s mouth as it is swimming away…then, yes, it might just clamp down and “bite” you!

#3: What do I do if I see an Alligator?

Here is what you do. Ready? Nothing. You do nothing… Unless you wake up next to an alligator in your tent or bed…in that case you scream!

#4: How do you handle the heat from June to August?

That’s simple: We become a nudist colony.

#5: Why are there so many for sale signs?

That’s just our version of Survivor.

#6: How do I get off the island?

Well, how did you get on the “island”????

#7: Can I drive through the State Park to get pack to Port St Joe?

Of course, if your vehicle is a transformer in disguise!

#8: Why are there so many bugs in the Summer?

To help filter your blood…duh!

#9: Do you get hurricanes?

No, we are too north and landlocked to be hit by hurricanes.

#10: What is the Stump Hole?

In a land far far away exist a place where there are many tree stumps in the water.

Digital Directory: Charter Captains, Horseback Riding, Kayak Rentals and More while visiting Cape San Blas, FL or 30E.

Ready to go into the Gulf, catch your prize fish, post it and brag about it to your family and friends back home? Ready to enjoy a meal of fresh scallops you harvested from the Bay? Ready to take a unique horseback ride along one of the most beautiful coasts in the United States? Ready to paddle into the pristine and relaxing Bay and enjoy seeing some of the most amazing marine life? Then, make sure to become familiar with the local businesses that can make this happen!

Below is a list of some of the local businesses that offer wonderful services while visiting Cape San Blas, FL or 30E. Visit their Facebook pages, websites and Instagram accounts. Become familiar with their services, message them, browse their photos, etc.

Don’t forget to share your experiences and offer suggestions to others by joining the Cape San Blas, FL Beach to Bay Yard Sale, Trade and Tips group! If you are a local business that offers one of these or similar services and we have not listed your business on this list, please contact us.

Charter Captains, Boat Rentals, Snorkeling & Scalloping Trips, etc.

Horseback Riding on the Beach on Cape San Blas, FL or 30E

Kayak, Paddle Board and Bike Rentals

Golf Cart Rentals for the Beach

Looking for Places to Stay while visiting Cape San Blas, FL? View our Rental Homes Digital Directory: Rental Homes on Cape San Blas, FL or 30E.


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