Over 100 Pensacola residents attended the Tuesday night town hall meeting concerning the future of Carpenter’s Creek. Councilwoman Sherri Myers hosted the gathering, but Mayor Ashton Hayward and his administration skipped the meeting held at Cokesbury United Methodist Church on North Ninth Avenue.
On “Pensacola Speaks” yesterday, Myers said that the council’s staff and the University of West Florida students had worked hard to make sure those who live around Carpenter’s Creek knew about the meeting, which focused on the restoration of Carpenter Creek and Bayou Texar. Carpenter Creek is listed by the EPA as an impaired body of water, and the Carpenter Creek/Bayou Texar project submitted by the West Florida Regional Planning Council is one of the highest ranked projects by the Escambia County Restore Advisory Committee.
“There are a lot of people who live along Carpenter’s Creek,” she said. “I did, with the help of the city council staff, send out 300 letters, fliers to every property owner along the creek in the city limits.”
Myers added, “This project is very, very important. Carpenter’s Creek is a tributary that’s protected under the United States Clean Water Act. Basically whatever happens in Carpenter’s Creek ends up in Bayou Texar. We had a lot of older people there at the meeting. Many of them have lived along the creek for 30, 40, 50 years. Many of the people remember that Carpenter’s Creek at one time was a major recreational facility in this area.”
Carpenter’s Creek begins in County Commissioner Lumon May’s district and flows into Commissioner Grover Robinson’s district. Much of it is inside the Pensacola city limits, where the creek and Bayou Texar flow through Myers’ and Councilman Larry Johnson’s districts.
Myers said that Commissioner Robinson, who chose the Carpenter Creek/Bayou Texar project as one of the projects he has submitted to the Board of County Commissioner for Restore funding, had several people from the county at the town hall. Commissioner May attended, as did representatives from the West Florida Regional Planning Council, University of West Florida, and Laurie Murphy from the Emerald Coastkeepers.
“Dr. Elizabeth Benchley from the UWF Archaeology Department was there last night, because they are very interested in the history of Carpenter’s Creek,” said Myers. “We believe that the British in the 1700s used Carpenter’s Creek, possibly had a mill there, and had a dam. There’s some very rich historical archaeological sites there that need to be explored.”
The District 2 councilwoman told Inweekly that she specifically invited City Administrator Eric Olson to the town hall meeting. Mayor Hayward discontinued holding town hall meeting in December 2013.
“I don’t know if they were busy, but their absence speaks volumes,” said Myers. “I was told by Keith Wilkins Friday that Eric Olson was going to send somebody, and nobody that I know of showed up to identify themselves as a person from the city. I am very disappointed.”
While the mayor has shied away from public meetings with residents for the past three years, Myers has continued to hold town hall meetings in her district.
“I am big believer in town hall meetings, because it gets you close to the people,” she said. “It gives them a voice, and it allows them to participate. I just, I love town hall meetings.”
She praised the work of the council staff and UWF in helping get the word out about the Tuesday meeting.
“Now that we have our own staff, I actually have the money and the staff to send out notices to my constituents. The reason there was so many people there last night is because our city council staff worked hard to get them there. I didn’t have that resource before. I had to do it all on my own at my own expense.”
Others also helped with the town hall meeting.
“We’ve had students from UWF involved in this project who’ve been working on going door to door, knocking on doors telling residents, ‘We’re having a town hall meeting. Please come.’ We have a great cross section of people working on this issue, just ordinary everyday people and scientists and environmentalists and students and professors.”
Myers said the city owns a four-acre stormwater area along Carpenter Creek, which she hopes to convince city officials to make a green space.
“My vision for Carpenter’s Creek is going to be the collective vision of the citizens of this area,” she said. “We’re going to hold more meetings and the next meeting will probably be in early February, because we want the community and the people who reside along the creek to develop a visionary plan for this creek.”
Meanwhile, Myers said she will reach out to the large corporations that own land abutting the creek.
“I really want to partner with them, because basically they don’t need a lot of the land that’s along Carpenter’s Creek,” she said. “I really want to approach them to be good environmental partners with us and to help give us funding, to possibly give us conservation easements.”
She added, “I’m hopeful there are corporate and commercial entities along the creek will want to help us with our project to restore the creek, to give the public access, to make it a beautiful green way again, and a recreational facility.”
For more information, please contact, Sherri Myers, firstname.lastname@example.org