Due to extensive structural damage, Gulf Islands National Seashore officials will remove several dilapidated structures at Johnson Beach in the Perdido Key Area of the national seashore. Work will begin today with the removal of several dune crossover boardwalks and will conclude with the removal of the Star Pavilion before the summer season. Some boardwalks will be repaired while those removed will be replaced with level paths through the dunes. No beach access points will be permanently closed at this time.
Over the past month the National Park Service has worked with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to develop a plan for dealing with excess sand build-up around park pavilions and damaged boardwalks. The two agencies developed a solution to collaborate in the sand and crossover removal. The primary objective is to limit the impact to shorebirds, sea turtles, and beach mice while providing visitors with access to the facilities and beach.
Around the swim beach restrooms and pavilions,US Fish and Wildlife will assist the NPS in removing excess sand that has accumulated over several years. This sand regularly causes walkways, roadways, and parking lots to be covered with sand creating accessibility challenges and safety issues, as well as damaging structures in the area. Visitors can expect to see heavy equipment working in this area beginning this month with work expected to be completed by the end of February.
Dune crossover boardwalks C, E, F, G, and K will be removed and replaced with road-level walkways through the dunes. Crossover boardwalks A, B, D, and H will be repaired. Additionally, old post-and-rope fencing will be removed from the length of the roadway and new signs will be installed to direct visitors to appropriate access points. This work is scheduled to be completed by the beginning of March.
The Star Pavilion has been cordoned off for the past several months and will be removed due to extensive termite damage. Although the National Park Service explored several options, ultimately it was determined that the damage was too extensive to warrant repair.
Since sufficient pavilion space exists at two larger structures at Johnson Beach and due to the high cost of repairing or replacing the Star Pavilion, park officials determined that the pavilion should be removed. Over the next few months the national seashore will remove the structure and pave and stripe the area adding approximately 39 parking spaces, which should help alleviate some parking issues during busier weekends.
“The Star Pavilion at Johnson Beach is a popular facility and we’re sad to see it removed, but it has become too dangerous for continued use, and the cost to replace it isn’t justified when other pavilions have sufficient capacity” said Superintendent Dan Brown. He continued, “By removing the damaged pavilion, we can provide better service to our visitors through increased parking and focused maintenance of the remaining pavilions.”
Prior to announcing the decision, Superintendent Brown met with Escambia County Commissioner Doug Underhill. Commissioner Underhill commented, “Termite activity is a fact of life on Perdido Key, and it is a shame to see the Star Pavilion fall victim to them. However, I am pleased to see that Superintendent Brown’s solution will create much needed additional parking on Johnson Beach, allowing more of our citizens and visitors to enjoy the most beautiful beach in the world. I am confident that the existing structures on Johnson Beach will provide sufficient shelters and facilities for the community.”
In addition to Commissioner Underhill, Superintendent Brown reached out to local community organizations to inform them of the decision.
In addition to this major work, the park officials have approved hiring a dedicated facility management and maintenance employee and commissioned law enforcement Park Ranger for the Perdido Key Area in an effort to provide increased visitor service.