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February 23rd, 2010 | Author:

Pensacola area reefing effort is also moving ahead.   Officials are hoping to install three reefs per this Pensacola News Journal Article

From: Kimberly Blair o kblair@pnj.com  on February 11, 2010
Snorkels, masks and fins may soon become as essential to a day on Pensacola Beach as sunscreen and boogie boards.
A proposal to install three near-shore snorkeling reefs is in the works, according to W.A. “Buck” Lee, executive director of the Santa Rosa Island Authority, and Robert Turpin, manager of Escambia’s Marine Resources Division.
One of the reefs would be located a couple hundred feet into the Gulf of Mexico near Park East, east of the Portofino towers. The piling-style reef would be geared for experienced snorkelers
Two pyramid-style reefs would be located in Pensacola Bay near Park West at the entrance to the Gulf Islands National Seashore. The one closest to shore would be geared for children and novices, and one about 500 feet farther out would be for fishing and diving.
The three projects hinge on securing permits from a number of federal agencies, Turpin said.
The biggest hurdle is getting the National Marine Fisheries Service to sign off on the permits because the reefs are proposed in the critical Gulf sturgeon habitat, he said.
The county currently has 198 artificial reefs, including the largest in the world – the decommissioned aircraft carrier Oriskany. But, unlike the three proposed reefs, they’re accessible only by boat.
The goal of the snorkeling reefs is to generate more money for Pensacola Beach by providing tourists with more to do so they extend their vacations, Lee said.
Beverly McCay, general manager of Holiday Inn Express on Pensacola Beach near Park West, said guests often ask where’s the best place to snorkel or beach dive.
“Anything that enhances the vacation experience can extend the tourist’s stay,” McCay said. “Some tourists who come on a weekend may see that there’s so much to do and then decide to come back and spend a week.”
Randy Larcom of Bay Breeze Aquatics & Dive Center in Gulf Breeze said people call on a regular basis looking for snorkeling opportunities.
“Right now about the only place we can send anybody is Fort Pickens, but it’s not the best place to snorkel,” he said of the popular scuba-diving spot.
That’s because snorkelers have to compete with divers and fight strong currents at the mouth of Pensacola Pass, off Fort Pickens.
“Anything that can be made for tourists in shallow enough water would be a big help,” Larcom said.
His business, he said, would benefit by renting snorkeling equipment to people who could enjoy watching a variety of fish, such as snapper, grouper, flounder and trigger fish around the reefs. The three projects hinge on securing permits from a number of federal agencies, Turpin said.
The biggest hurdle is getting the National Marine Fisheries Service to sign off on the permits because the reefs are proposed in the critical Gulf sturgeon habitat, he said.
The county currently has 198 artificial reefs, including the largest in the world – the decommissioned aircraft carrier Oriskany. But, unlike the three proposed reefs, they’re accessible only by boat.
The goal of the snorkeling reefs is to generate more money for Pensacola Beach by providing tourists with more to do so they extend their vacations, Lee said.
Beverly McCay, general manager of Holiday Inn Express on Pensacola Beach near Park West, said guests often ask where’s the best place to snorkel or beach dive.
“Anything that enhances the vacation experience can extend the tourist’s stay,” McCay said. “Some tourists who come on a weekend may see that there’s so much to do and then decide to come back and spend a week.”
Randy Larcom of Bay Breeze Aquatics & Dive Center in Gulf Breeze said people call on a regular basis looking for snorkeling opportunities.
“Right now about the only place we can send anybody is Fort Pickens, but it’s not the best place to snorkel,” he said of the popular scuba-diving spot.
That’s because snorkelers have to compete with divers and fight strong currents at the mouth of Pensacola Pass, off Fort Pickens.
“Anything that can be made for tourists in shallow enough water would be a big help,” Larcom said.
His business, he said, would benefit by renting snorkeling equipment to people who could enjoy watching a variety of fish, such as snapper, grouper, flounder and trigger fish around the reefs.
Snorkelers now mostly hunt shells and sand dollars and, if they’re lucky, catch glimpses of fleeting fish.
Keith Wilkins, Escambia’s deputy chief for neighborhood and community services, said Escambia County bed taxes would pay for the reefs.
An exact dollar amount has not been calculated, but reefs are not expensive, he said.
“A small reef is about $10,000,” he said. “These projects may be a little more.”

Snorkelers could get place to kick their fins

Officials hoping to install three reefs

Kimberly Blair • kblair@pnj.com • February 11, 2010

Snorkels, masks and fins may soon become as essential to a day on Pensacola Beach as sunscreen and boogie boards.

A proposal to install three near-shore snorkeling reefs is in the works, according to W.A. “Buck” Lee, executive director of the Santa Rosa Island Authority, and Robert Turpin, manager of Escambia’s Marine Resources Division.

One of the reefs would be located a couple hundred feet into the Gulf of Mexico near Park East, east of the Portofino towers. The piling-style reef would be geared for experienced snorkelers

Two pyramid-style reefs would be located in Pensacola Bay near Park West at the entrance to the Gulf Islands National Seashore. The one closest to shore would be geared for children and novices, and one about 500 feet farther out would be for fishing and diving.

The three projects hinge on securing permits from a number of federal agencies, Turpin said.

The biggest hurdle is getting the National Marine Fisheries Service to sign off on the permits because the reefs are proposed in the critical Gulf sturgeon habitat, he said.

The county currently has 198 artificial reefs, including the largest in the world — the decommissioned aircraft carrier Oriskany. But, unlike the three proposed reefs, they’re accessible only by boat.

The goal of the snorkeling reefs is to generate more money for Pensacola Beach by providing tourists with more to do so they extend their vacations, Lee said.

Beverly McCay, general manager of Holiday Inn Express on Pensacola Beach near Park West, said guests often ask where’s the best place to snorkel or beach dive.

“Anything that enhances the vacation experience can extend the tourist’s stay,” McCay said. “Some tourists who come on a weekend may see that there’s so much to do and then decide to come back and spend a week.”

Randy Larcom of Bay Breeze Aquatics & Dive Center in Gulf Breeze said people call on a regular basis looking for snorkeling opportunities.

“Right now about the only place we can send anybody is Fort Pickens, but it’s not the best place to snorkel,” he said of the popular scuba-diving spot.

That’s because snorkelers have to compete with divers and fight strong currents at the mouth of Pensacola Pass, off Fort Pickens.

“Anything that can be made for tourists in shallow enough water would be a big help,” Larcom said.

His business, he said, would benefit by renting snorkeling equipment to people who could enjoy watching a variety of fish, such as snapper, grouper, flounder and trigger fish around the reefs. The three projects hinge on securing permits from a number of federal agencies, Turpin said.

The biggest hurdle is getting the National Marine Fisheries Service to sign off on the permits because the reefs are proposed in the critical Gulf sturgeon habitat, he said.

The county currently has 198 artificial reefs, including the largest in the world — the decommissioned aircraft carrier Oriskany. But, unlike the three proposed reefs, they’re accessible only by boat.

The goal of the snorkeling reefs is to generate more money for Pensacola Beach by providing tourists with more to do so they extend their vacations, Lee said.

Beverly McCay, general manager of Holiday Inn Express on Pensacola Beach near Park West, said guests often ask where’s the best place to snorkel or beach dive.

“Anything that enhances the vacation experience can extend the tourist’s stay,” McCay said. “Some tourists who come on a weekend may see that there’s so much to do and then decide to come back and spend a week.”

Randy Larcom of Bay Breeze Aquatics & Dive Center in Gulf Breeze said people call on a regular basis looking for snorkeling opportunities.

“Right now about the only place we can send anybody is Fort Pickens, but it’s not the best place to snorkel,” he said of the popular scuba-diving spot.

That’s because snorkelers have to compete with divers and fight strong currents at the mouth of Pensacola Pass, off Fort Pickens.

“Anything that can be made for tourists in shallow enough water would be a big help,” Larcom said.

His business, he said, would benefit by renting snorkeling equipment to people who could enjoy watching a variety of fish, such as snapper, grouper, flounder and trigger fish around the reefs.

Snorkelers now mostly hunt shells and sand dollars and, if they’re lucky, catch glimpses of fleeting fish.

Keith Wilkins, Escambia’s deputy chief for neighborhood and community services, said Escambia County bed taxes would pay for the reefs.

An exact dollar amount has not been calculated, but reefs are not expensive, he said.

“A small reef is about $10,000,” he said. “These projects may be a little more.”