Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Beach Rhythms Returning

"There are a lot of other people besides me who walk the beach and look at the sand and watch the trucks going by. They can see what the danger is. If they get involved and speak up then we have a chance to keep the beach as beautiful as it is now."
-- Anne Sanborn, July 2001
Wednesday's Pensacola News Journal prominently features an article about red clay concerns on Pensacola Beach. This provides yet another welcome sign that the familiar rhythms of life on Pensacola Beach are returning to normal at long last, nearly a year and a half after Hurricane Ivan.

Just as the usually gentle Gulf waves ebb and flow along Florida's barrier islands -- each wave, having spent itself, supplanted by another as surely as that one in its turn will be replaced by a newer wave -- so, too, do the generations of beach residents who care deeply about Pensacola Beach easily flow from one into the next.

Today's story is that Victoria Clarkin, the president of the Pensacola Beach Preservation and Historic Society, is said to be following "dump trucks as far as Navarre, documenting the hauling" of material off the beach. Reporter Lynette Wilson's treatment leaves a few gaps in the story that may mystify some readers.

Most will understand that Ms. Clarkin suspects something may be fouling the famous "sugar white sands." But it isn't clear whether she's worried the sand is being removed by road crews building a four-lane Via De Luna, or red clay is being left in place, or even that trucks are accidentally importing the clay. Quite possibly, all the above.

It's hard to know because the newspaper gives Ms. Clarkin too little space to explain the basis of her suspicions.
It is clear, however, that her volunteer efforts are vital. Escambia County environmental services director Keith Wilkins is quoted in the article as saying:
"We appreciate the residents watching. We rely on the citizens to keep an eye out. We have 12 enforcement officers and no inspectors."
No inspectors? That will come as a shock to some. Yet, thus it always has been.

Long-time residents of Pensacola Beach may be forgiven their sense of deja vu. Today, the sand monitor is Victoria Clarkin. Yesterday -- or, to be more precise, from 1998 to 2001 -- it was Anne Sanborn.

National reporter Kelly Greene even did a front-page feature for the Wall Street Journal about Anne in July, 2001. The title was, "Gray Area: If Sand on Strand Isn't White, Ms. Sanborn Is Livid." The subhead read: "She Patrols for Discolorations And Reports Them; Builders And Some Others See Red."

After the article appeared, Anne was interviewed about it for the (now defunct) web site. Here is an excerpt:
Anne said she and several friends had been informally patrolling the beach for nearly three years, alert to any red clay or discolored fill dirt being trucked onto the island. Their efforts started in earnest after they discovered the Santa Rosa Island Authority was overlooking sand mixed with red clay, rocks, dirt and "brown sand" trucked to a Gulfside dune rebuilding site.

Now, Anne says, the cadre of volunteers keeps a watchful eye for all sources of sand defilement, from road repair materials to new building construction.

Why worry over the color the sand?

"Because I like white sand," she states flatly. "It's one of the things that attracted me to Pensacola Beach and I know it attracts many other people. The AAA Travel guide even mentions the unique white color in the first sentence of their section about Pensacola Beach."
As it happens, Anne, then age 75, moved from the beach soon after to be nearer her children and grandchildren. When asked if she had any advice for those who were staying behind, this is what she said:
"All I can say is keep up the good work. There are a lot of other people besides me who walk the beach and look at the sand and watch the trucks going by. They can see what the danger is. If they get involved and speak up then we have a chance to keep the beach as beautiful as it is now."
And so the beach goes on into a long future, we can hope. Victoria Clarkin has answered Anne Sanborn's call to "get involved" and "speak out" to preserve the best of Pensacola Beach. Let's hope more of the next generation of beach residents will do the same.


Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for such a nice article showing that there are people on this beautiful beach who really care.

victoria said...

who wrote this beautiful article about ann sanbourn? i had the pleasure of meeting her once, years ago... at a meeting. and funny, we were both complaining about what was going on in reguards to beach sand. and you were right on about lynette wilson, pnj, about really missing with this article. i explained very carefully to her that on january 3rd, when school started at pbelementary... many noticed the mountain of PRISTINE white sand across the street being shipped off the beach in dump trucks at about 2 every 5 minutes. i was driving to the post office in gbreeze after dropping off the kids and happened to follow the truck out as it headed, full of our beautiful sand across the bridge to pensacola. that afternoon at school pick up, they were still at it. parents were visably upset about the sand going and i was asked to find out what was going on, i suppose, because i am president of the preservation society. the next morning the trucks were still at it. on my way to gulf breeze i saw 3 trucks dump our sand at the new st. andrews institute being built at the base of the bridge. that afternoon it was the same. i suggested some people start taking notes and photos of what they saw. the next morning i was behind another truck full of white sand but it did not stop, it went to navarre beach/gulf blvd.
there is lots of documentation that roads inc took our sand, and a lot of it for at least 10 days that we know of. the county tells me this is illegal. they are taking sworn statements of some of those who witnessed it, including a member of pbrla (go pbrla!!!)i was told roads inc said it was debris or clay tainted sand. 99% of what i saw was not. once this came up, they started mixing the white sand with dirty looking sand before taking it. now they have stopped.
thank you for noticing the article and commenting on it. pbphs has emailed your article to 100s of people who care. and i would like to say again, i was only the person quoted in the paper. there are others who did good work protecting our beach. and did i mention what a talented writer you are? wish we had you at pnj. sincerely...
victoria clarkin