Category Archives: Gulf County

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.

Sea Turtle Season Tips and Facts

One of the most unique and memorable experiences that a local or visitor to Cape San Blas can have is to watch a sea turtle make its way to nest and lay its eggs on the beach and, in time, watching the hatchlings make their way to the water and venture out on their own.

As the attached chart explains, provided by the Florida Coastal Conservancy, for a small peninsula, Cape San Blas had an active 2015 Sea Turtle season. It is not uncommon for vacationers and locals alike to have the exciting opportunity to observe mother sea turtles and baby sea turtles during the year. After all, sea turtles nest along all the beaches of Gulf County, including Indian Pass, St. Joe Beach and also Mexico Beach (which is actually the end of Bay County).

2015 Sea Turtle Nesting Summary for Cape San Blas (St. Joseph Peninsula)
2015 Sea Turtle Nesting Summary for Cape San Blas (St. Joseph Peninsula)

But, as a person can imagine, both adult and baby sea turtles while on shore are pretty much defenseless and vulnerable to nearly every possible obstacle. That being the case, here are a few tips that help make the sea turtles onshore trek a little bit easier.

Sea Turtle Season Tips and Facts:

1.) “Don’t Go Near The Light!”—Beach Front Lighting.

Instinctively wise, sea turtles are born with internal instructions to move toward the brightest object on the beach. Thus, in a purely natural setting, the light emanating from the moon or the stars would reflect off the water and should direct the sea turtles to the sea. However, the bright beachfront lights can overshadow the natural lighting of the moon and the stars and disorientate the sea turtles.

According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission “suggested alternatives to decrease artificial lighting include use of motion sensors for safety, dark window tinting and curtains to cover inside light, and yellow incandescent light bulbs (“bug lights”). Studies have also shown that light from low pressure sodium vapor sources don’t attract turtles as much as high pressure sodium lights. Avoid fluorescent, mercury vapor, metal halide, and white incandescent lighting.”

In addition to the lighting from beachfront homes or businesses, if while walking on the beach, a person does get to experience sea turtles hatching and flopping their way to the water one evening, as tempting as it may be, please do not use cell phone lights to shine on and view the turtles.

2.) “I’ve Fallen and I Can’t Get Up!”—Fill In Sand Holes After Playing.

After a fun-filled day on the beach and digging around in the sand, please remember to fill in the holes when everyone retires for the night. Remember, sea turtles are vulnerable to everything on the beach, including falling into holes.

A Loggerhead Sea Turtle fell into a hole on the beach and had to be rescued by a local Sea Turtle Patrol.
A Loggerhead Sea Turtle fell into a hole on the beach and had to be rescued by a local Sea Turtle Patrol.

3.) “It’s Like I Was Never There.”—Leave No Trace.

Gulf County has a Leave No Trace Ordinance in place and is enforced by the Gulf County Sheriff’s Office. By removing items off the beach, sea turtles will not run into or get wedged in them. It has been observed, for example, that sea turtles will get stuck under lounge chairs left on the beach.

A Loggerhead Sea Turtle is stuck under a lounge chair that was left on the beach. Photo taken by Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch.
A Loggerhead Sea Turtle is stuck under a lounge chair that was left on the beach. Photo taken by Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch.

4.) “Please Do Not Disturb.”

If there is a marked sea turtle nest on the beach, please do not disturb it or allow a pet to explore the nest.

Interesting Facts About Sea Turtles:

1.) Sea Turtles can live as long as humans: 40-60 years or longer.

2.) In Florida, where 90% of sea turtles nest, each year roughly between 40,000 and 84,000 sea turtle nests are documented.

3.) Female sea turtles lay between 80-120 eggs each nest they create. They nest every 2-to-3 years.

4.) Depending on the type of sea turtle, sea turtles can weigh between 75 to 1,300 pounds.

5.) Florida has 5 nesting sea turtles, all of which are either an endangered or threatened species and are protected by Florida Statues. The five types are:

LOGGERHEAD | GREEN TURTLE | LEATHERBACK | KEMP’S RIDLEY | HAWKSBILL

If you spot any sick, harmed or dead sea turtles, please contact the FWC.

 

Scalloping Unshucked: Useful Tips When Scalloping

Scallop Season! No other words seem to get people more excited to get in the water. Scalloping is one of the most anticipated activities during the summer months in St. Joseph Bay. Thousands of people from across the United States purposely plan their vacations to Cape San Blas specifically during this exciting season. Whether a person is a beginner or a veteran, here are some useful tips for scalloping.

Scalloping Essentials and Equipment:

  • Scallop Season: Scallop Season opens the Saturday before July 1st, unless July 1st falls on a Saturday, then the opening date would be July 1st.
  • Fishing License: A Fishing License is required for people who are swimming, snorkeling or scuba diving to scallop. Those scalloping by wading (feet that do not leave the bottom to swim, snorkel, or scuba dive) are not required to possess a fishing license. However, the good news is that there are a few days designated Free Fishing Days. With regard to Scallop Season, a free fishing day would kick-in on the first Saturday in September–meaning a person can scallop either by swimming, snorkeling or scuba diving without being required to purchase a fishing license on that day.
  • Mask, Snorkel and Sometimes Water Shoes and Fins: Make sure the seals on the mask are not dried out or cracked. A leaking mask while scalloping is no fun! For those who prefer to wade while scalloping, investing in a pair of water shoes would protect the feet from stepping on urchins or other sharp or pointy objects.
Scalloping Gear: Mask, Snorkel and Fins
Scalloping Gear: Mask, Snorkel and Fins
  • Gloves and Dip Net: Most individuals gather scallops using their bare hands. However, some prefer to put on a par of gloves or use a small dip net to scoop up the scallops. When scalloping, sometimes the scallops try to swim away using jet propulsion. Don’t worry, they do not swim fast though.
  • Drawstring Mesh Bag: This is recommended as it will allow a person to keep the scallops secure while gathering them and the bag provides the least resistance to swimmers as they are wading or snorkeling for scallops.
Drawstring Mesh Bag
Drawstring Mesh Bag
  • Scallop Knife: Scalloping has two components: Gathering and Cleaning. Using a scallop knife, as opposed to a butter knife, will make cleaning the scallops both more efficient and effective.
    • Tip: Cleaning the scallops on the boat and tossing the remains back into the bay saves time, energy and a not-so-pleasant smell on shore because the scallop remains are left in the woods, in the trashcan or elsewhere where the smell travels and becomes a stench.
  • Good Scalloping Spot: While some people prefer to wade along the bayshore or near it to gather scallops, others enjoy taking a boat, canoe or kayak into the bay and look for nice scalloping spots.
    • Locating the Perfect Scalloping Spot
      • The best scalloping spots are normally where the water is 4 to 8 feet deep in the bay. Also, look for sea-grass beds. Why? Because often, scallops are located in the sea-grass beds or near the edges of sandy-spots. They are usually easiest to see in the areas where the sand bottom meets the edge of the sea-grasses.
    • Dive Flag: Whether a person is swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving or wading for scallops, a dive flag is required.
      • Dive Flag Requirements
        • Displayed On The Boat: A dive flag must be at least 20 inches by 24 inches. A stiffener is required to keep the flag unfurled. It must be displayed above the highest point of the boat and taken down when divers are out of the water.
        • Displayed on float attached to snorkeler: The dive flag must be at least 12 inches by 12 inches.
        • Divers must make reasonable efforts to stay within 300 feet of a divers-down flag on open waters (all waterways other than rivers, inlets or navigation channels) and within 100 feet of a flag within rivers, inlets, or navigation channels.
        • Vessel operators must make a reasonable effort to maintain a distance of at least 300 feet from divers-down flags on open waters and at least 100 feet from flags on rivers, inlets or navigation channels. Vessels approaching divers-down flags closer than 300 feet in open water and 100 feet in rivers, inlets and navigation channels must slow to idle speed.
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Dive Flag
  • Cooler and Ice: As the scallops are gathered, it best to put them on ice to preserve the freshness. In addition, the ice will cause the scallops to open up. Thus, cleaning the scallops becomes much easier and faster.
  • Bag Limit: 2 gallons whole bay scallops in shell, or 1 pint of bay scallop meat per person. Maximum of 10 gallons of whole bay scallops in shell, or 1/2 gallon bay scallop meat per vessel.

We hope that these tips will prove helpful during the upcoming Scallop Season! Enjoy!

Scalloping Tips
Scalloping Tips

 

Whether Camping or Visiting for a Day, Here are some Enjoyable Camping Activities while Visiting St. Joseph Peninsula State Park

So, its time for the annual camping trip to St. Joseph Peninsula State Park. Everything is packed and ready to go. Or, while renting a home on Cape San Blas, family or friends decide to go visit St. Joseph Peninsula State Park for a day. Either way, whether camping in the park or just making it a day’s event, it’s time to explore and make some great memories. So, what are some of the activities that campers can enjoy while visiting St. Joseph Peninsula State Park? Here are a few…


One of the 3 Nature Trails

Hiking Nature Trails
St. Joseph Peninsula State Park taunts 3 different trails for people to explore: The Maritime Hammock Trail, the Bay View Nature Trail and the Wilderness Preserve Trail. Each trail brings the hiker into contact with a different, but pristine, aspect of nature.


Plant Identification
Along the hiking trails, why not keep the mind as active as the body by playing a little game of plant IDing? This no doubt will keep the conversations active and informative as well. Occasionally, along the hiking trails, markers are posted that identify certain types of botany.


Bird watching is truly remarkable.

Bird Watching
From the majestic Bald Eagle to the Wise Owl, the shear variety of birds is fascinating. St. Joseph Peninsula State Park is documented as being the most documented shorebird nesting beach in the Panhandle of Florida.


Fishing
OK, so this one is a no brainer. Still, the variety of tasty fish that can be caught are abundant. These include Speckled Trout, Red Drum, Flounder, Mullet, Bluefish, Whiting and Shark, just to name a few. Whether these are fried, grilled, baked or blackened, dinner is sure to be delicious!


Kayaking

Canoeing and Kayaking
Explore the waters as much as the nature trails! St. Joseph Peninsula State Park has plenty of areas in which canoes and kayaks can be launched into the Bay or the Gulf. The easiest way is to just take the canoe or kayak straight to the Gulf or the Bay and go from there. Or, a person can launch the vessel from Eagle Harbor, the Bay View Picnic area, etc.


Boating
Boating is a very popular activity at St. Joseph Peninsula State Park. Boats can be launched at Eagle Harbor.


Scuba Diving
There is awesome scuba diving off-shore. There are many artificial reefs and wrecks in the Gulf of Mexico. A person can spear fish, lobster, etc.



Scalloping
Truly one of the most coveted and exciting activities to do in the Bay is scalloping! Between July 1-around the 3rd week of September, Scallop Season is in full swing. This should be on the must do list for campers! Glide through the waters and observe some of the most beautiful and fascinating underwater species. Comb through the sea grass and find Rays, Sea Horses, Spider Crabs, Puffer Fish, etc, etc, etc, etc, etc. There is not limit to the sea life that is located in the Bay or Gulf.
Scalloping Tips


Shelling
St. Joseph Peninsula State Park can be a shell pickers paradise! Literally, tons of shells can be washed onto the shore. Comb through the shells to find the perfect one!


Watching Wildlife
St. Joseph Peninsula State Park is full of wonderful wildlife. There are Deer, Bobcats, Foxes, Otters, Raccoons, Squirrels, Opossum, Coyotes, Armadillo, etc.


Bicycling
There are 4 miles of road in the park for cyclists to enjoy. Plus, there is a 10 mile bike path located long the entire peninsula.


S’mores Contest
This both satisfies someone’s literal hunger and hunger for competition. Delish!


Playground
Located at the Bay View area is a playground for the kids and a picnic shelter for the parents to watch the kids.


Picnicking
There is a large picnic pavilion and smaller picnic pavilions for campers to utilize. The Bay View picnic area provides access to the mile-long Bay View Trail, has a large picnic shelter for family gatherings, a large playground, canoe/kayak launch and restrooms. The picnic area at Eagle Harbor provides small picnic shelters, restrooms, boat ramp and access to the beach and bay.


Horseback Riding
Cape San Blas is one of the few places where horseback riding is permitted on the beach and a unique feature to add to any camping trip. Contact Broke-A-Toe for details about adding horseback riding to the camping itinerary.

Have Fun!

Helpful Information Concerning Gulf County Ordinances Pertaining to the Leash Law, Leave No Trace, Beach Driving and Golf Carts.

Recently, we have received several inquires as to the Ordinances in Gulf County pertaining to the Leash Law, Leave No Trace, Beach Driving and Golf Carts. Because it would take a considerable amount of time to answer each question individually, we have prepared a note with helpful information that is all public record.

1.) Leash Law: Pets on the Beach, at the Parks, etc.

Gulf County does have a Leash Law in effect and an individual can receive a citation if an officer views a person’s pet unleashed and running on either public property (Parks, the Beaches, etc) and other people’s private property even if the owner is watching his or her pet.

The Gulf County Ordinance No. 2008-20, under Section 1., entitled Definitions, provides the following explanations concerning pets:

  • At Large is defined as an animal when off the property and not under restraint.
  • Confined is defined as within a building, pen fenced yard, vehicle, on a leash or on a chain.
  • Restraint is defined as confined within the real property limits of its owner or secured by a leash or lead.

Gulf County Ordinance No. 2008-20, also covers the topic of pet owners being responsible for cleaning up their pet’s waste on either public property (Parks, the Beaches, etc) and other people’s private property. Under Definitions, Section 1, the definition entitled Public Nuisance or Nuisance Animal specifically addresses the pet owners responsibility of cleaning and disposing their pet’s waste immediately.

Section 10 discusses Citations and Violations.
Gulf County Ordinance No. 2008-20 can be found here.
2.) Leave No Trace.
The Gulf County Ordinance No. 2015-07 pertaining to Leave No Trace can be found here.
As a general rule, all personal property and items must be removed from the beaches. However, there are a few exceptions to this, for example, pertaining to weddings and other beach events. Permits are required for someone needing to make use of these exemptions. This ordinance also discusses such matters as Camping on the beaches, Fires on the beaches, etc.
Recently, Gulf County is becoming increasingly attentive to items and property being left on the beaches. Citations and confiscations are beginning to to enforced. Signs have been created and will be posted along the beaches for the public.
3.) Beach Driving.
The Gulf County Ordinance No. 2015-08 discusses Beach Driving. Driving is permitted on the beaches. However, there are a number of regulations that a person driving a vehicle on the beaches must either be educated on and/or observe, such as Permitting and Fees, Access Points, Speed Limit, Violations and Fines, etc. At the time a permit is purchased, the purchaser is provided with a pamphlet and a copy of this Ordinance.
The Gulf County Ordinance No. 2015-08 can be found here.
4.) Golf Carts
Locals and Visitors alike are commenting on the number Golf Carts that can be regularly seen during the day and in the evening on either the Bike Path on Cape San Blas or on the main road of State Road 30E (Cape San Blas Road).
It has been observed that teenagers are driving these vehicles while friends are holding onto the Golf Cart while riding skateboards.
Gulf County Ordinance No. 2009-05 discusses the Rules and Regulations regarding Golf Carts. This ordinance can be found here.
Other Links to Information Sources in Gulf County. Feel Free to Contact these Sources with any Questions or Concerns.
Phone: (850) 229-6106
Email: Bocc@gulfcounty-fl.gov
Phone: (850) 227-1115
Email: Info@gcso.fl.gov
Phone: (850) 227-1223
Email: Info@gulfchamber.org
Phone: (850) 229-7800
Email: Info@visitgulf.com and LeaveNoTrace@visitgulf.com
Phone: (850) 227-1115
We sincerely hope that this information will make it much easier and convenient for people to locate important information and provide some clarity regarding these topics. We will update this page as relevant information comes to the fore.