Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Dogan's Done It - Again

Being a loyal reader of the Pensacola News Journal's Reginald Dogan, as we are, is like being a Chicago Cubs fan. No matter how fervently you wish them success, over time the odds are high that you're going to have your heart broken more often than not.

Take today, for instance. Coming off a win where Dogan hit it out of the park by showing what an unnecessary extravagance an $8-$10 million parking ramp would be on Pensacola Beach, he follows up with a breathtakingly bad idea: turn Pensacola Beach into Atlantic City so there will be a need for that parking ramp.

Our team writes:
For some people, the water and sand are enough attractions to bring them to the beach for a lifetime. But others, like me, want the bells and whistles.

We have a boardwalk that should be called a "boredwalk." It takes all of two minutes to cover the entire boardwalk that stretches, at best, about 300 yards.

There is a mix of shops and restaurants, but if you've been to a real boardwalk like Atlantic City or the Baltimore Harbor, you'll see how Pensacola pales in comparison.

Why do we have a Casino Beach without a casino? What good is a boardwalk that has only a few boards and a short walk?

Dogan then goes on to extol, among other monstrosities, shopping malls, 10,000 feet ampitheaters, and ferris wheels as the apotheosis of desirable beach development. Ferris wheels! Casinos??

"Don't misunderstand me," the columnist hastens to add. "Pensacola has a beautiful beach — if all you want is water and sand."

There's no possibility of misunderstanding you, Mr. Dogan. You are a Philistine with the environmental sensitivity of a bulldozer. Not to mention, you've done it again: you zigged when you should have been zagging. You engaged your keyboard before your brain knew what to write about.

Forget the fact that the News Journal has a venerable fifty-year history of advocating to preserve, not destroy, the natural wonders of Pensacola Beach against vulgar commercialization and destructive over-development. There's nothing that says a callow columnist can't try to tear down all the commendable works of J. Earle Bowden, one of the most esteemed newspaper editors in Florida history.

First, though, you really ought to read what Bowden and his allies endured to preserve just a small part of Santa Rosa Island for you to visit. As we have recalled before:
At the time, real estate development interests had visions -- and, indeed, a very specific blueprint -- for building a honky-tonk Disneyland penned by high-rise condos and hotels all the way down the 40-mile string of sand from Fort Pickens to Destin.
Read Bowden's book, The Sands of Time. Hunt down and take a look at the aerial map that circulated among real estate brokers back in the late 1960's, with its overlay showing their nightmarish visions of golf courses, casinos and, yes, even ferris wheels on Pensacola Beach. Ask around to find out how the old giant water slide on Pensacola Beach fared when the litigation was over, the enterprise was insolvent, and that mysterious fire broke out -- perhaps the only time in recorded history when a water slide burned to the ground.

That same incubus of cheap but destructive development ideas crawled out again a little more than a decade ago when the Island Authority contracted for an architect's plan to build a 3-story shopping mall right where Casino Beach sits today. Public outrage at the scheme to wall off Casino Beach from easy public view was so strong that even the Escambia County commissioners felt compelled to reject it. Indeed, they passed a resolution forbidding future commercial development of Casino Beach.

The main reason you have a "beautiful beach" to sniff at today, Mr. Dogan, is that voters and the Pensacola public at large have repeatedly rejected your vision and opted instead for the "water and sand" that you find so boring.

Mainlanders, island residents, and tourists alike all agree on one thing: it's a "beautiful" family beach we want, not another Destin, Panama City Beach, or Atlantic City.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wow. Great take-down of Dogan. No way should P.B. have a casino or mall. It isn't Destin. It is just a thread of sand.