Environment Escambia County Pensacola

Citizens celebrate Carpenter’s Creek efforts

May 31, 2017

By Sammi Sontag
INWEEKLY

Locals celebrated and simultaneously discussed Escambia County’s purchase of the 8.5-acre Carpenter’s Creek headwater property and restoration processes over pizza and cake at a town hall meeting hosted by Councilwoman Sherri Myers on Tuesday evening.

The creek is 4.7 miles long, with small tributaries flowing into it. In recent years, Carpenter’s Creek has become clogged with debris and trash from the city. Four major cleanups have been conducted, which helped decontaminate 2.5 miles of the creek, but there is still more to be done.

“Mother nature did a great job with Carpenter’s Creek. It was so nice,” said Barbara Albrecht, the director of Panhandle Watershed Alliance and author of the Carpenter Creek Concept. “I think the city needs to stop monkeying around with the land and restore the creek to its original beauty,”

Albrecht was the pioneer for the initial restoration of Carpenter’s Creek. She saw the polluted water and knew she could help, especially with the support of the community. The project grew, and now Carpenter’s Creek is going to see favorable change, Albrecht told Inweekly.

She said the city has to reconnect the creek with the people. It has been dirty for so long, it has gotten a bad reputation. Albrecht added, with the purchasing of the headwater property, the creek could reestablish its natural splendor.

Restoration is underway. County staff has budgeted $1.3 million for the Phase One of the Carpenter’s Creek restoration, according to Chips Kirschenfeld, the county’s Natural Resources Management Director. This means the budget must be approved by the county commission before any money is awarded, a process that could take up to 11 months, Kirschenfeld said.

Although the process of receiving the actual money will take time, the county has already prepared plans in conjunction with local landscapers.

Michael Wolf, a landscaper for the Wallace Company, spoke about his vision for Carpenter’s Creek and how the county could bring the community together with its restoration. Wolf envisioned the creek’s trailhead, which will be adjacent to East Olive Road, having a dock, a kayak launch, a bridge and public restrooms.

“I imagine some observation decks on both sides of the creek, maybe local vegetation heading the trail, which would lead to Bayou Texar,” said Wolf. “I want it to be something the community can enjoy.”

The landscaper’s presentation created light chatter and excitement throughout the room.

Emerald Coastkeeper Laurie Murphy said she wants to work with the public to ensure everyone has a clean community.

“I don’t work for the government or the state, that’s why I love my job,” Murphy told Inweekly. “I get to work directly for the people, which is why I’m working to get the budget approved so the revitalization project can begin. The project will take time, and the process is long, but it’s doable.”

Murphy works closely with Councilwoman Myers. Myers also stressed the importance of providing the city with the natural creek so locals can come together and enjoy the flora and fauna Pensacola has to offer. Another issue Myers emphasized was getting the Pensacola City Council involved in the restoration process and making sure the creek stays clean.

“I am going to do something about the it (the trash and debris dumped into the creek), and hopefully the city council will go along with me,” Myers said. “I want the city council to control the invasive species along the creek’s bed, and work with property owners who live along it (the creek) to fix what the city damaged.”

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  • CJ Lewis May 31, 2017 at 10:07 am

    It was a great meeting. Money is going to be key to getting this project done in our lifetimes. One way to immediately free up $4-5 million would be for the City Council to vote to terminate the Bayview Park Community Center project. The city’s 2011 Bayview Park Master Plan reports that the center should not be rebuilt and describes a citizen-input recommendation to restore public access to the waterfront. In March 2016, Councilman Larry Johnson told me that the city’s African-American community he said is going to support his bid to be elected mayor in 2018 want the Bayview Park Center rebuilt. I doubt it. Mayor Hayward tried to sell his house next to Bayview Park in 2009-2010 initially putting it on the market for $2.3 million. He has put his house on the market again currently asking $1.9 million. Perhaps Hayward’s realtors are citing the future new center as a selling point if anyone is looking for a grossly overpriced home with a name – “Hayward House” – on Bayou Texar. Johnson lives near Bayview Park too. In March 2016, Johnson told me that the city’s African-American community wants the Bayview Park Community Center rebuilt. Hayward would not allow the City Council to vote separately on the Bayview Park Community Center project tying it to a rebuild of Fire Station #3. I believe the City Council now has at least four votes to cancel the Bayview Park Community Center, use some of the money to reburbish the Bayview Park Senior Center that I know from first-hand experience serves as a community center and use the remaining money to jumpstart the Carpenter’s Creek project that would benefit a much greater percentage of the city population and, based on what I heard last night, create more recreational opportunities and jobs too. Councilwoman Myers should propose canceling the Bayview Park Community Center project and reallocating the money to the Carpenter’s Creek project.