Florida's Special Places: Fort Pickens Beach on Gulf Islands National Seashore

This nominee for Florida's Special Places comes from Lucy Duncan of Francis M. Weston Audubon Society in Escambia County, who nominates Fort Pickens Beach. Lucy is on her chapter's board, is an avid birder, and makes many visits to our federally protected Gulf Islands National Seashore. Please enjoy her nomination:

Fort Pickens, a section of Gulf Islands National Seashore, is as varied a special place as they come no matter what the season. Trails wind through coastal oak and pine forests, while open spaces of low white sand dunes are punctuated with dark green Florida Rosemary and dwarfed live oaks.

One favorite trail edges freshwater marshes where Least Bitterns and Common Yellowthroats breed. Otters play in the canals while Ospreys and Bald Eagles watch from aloft. Bird migration in spring and fall brings surprises in small packages – from tiny warblers of every hue to flashy tanagers and orioles. A vital stopover for migrating birds, each tree and shrub offers a haven of food and shelter for the birds. Winter season brings its own marvels amidst quiet landscapes highlighted by flashy red Dahoon Hollies and occasional rare avian visitors. And then there’s summer and the most gorgeous beaches in the world!

Imagine wiggling your toes in the fine, white quartzite sands on your favorite beach….blue green waves racing up to tickle your ankles with frothy foam….reaching down to pluck a perfectly shiny wet seashell from the sand. Imagine tasting salty air on your lips, and seeing the distant horizon that pulls you away from the mundane to places where your thoughts wander unfettered by the traffic of modern life. Feel the wind smack you right in the face or soak in the warmth of the sun. This could be almost any pristine beach, but for me, it’s the shores of Gulf Islands in Northwest Florida, a place to relax, reflect, retreat, and now to restore.

Fort Pickens and other Gulf beaches and communities could be the beneficiary of funds generated by the RESTORE Act. If passed 80 % of the Clean Water Act fines levied against BP as a result of the Deepwater Horizon disaster would be directed back to the five Gulf states impacted by the spill. The legislation co-sponsored by Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) is currently moving through Congress.  Should the legislation fail the funds will likely go to the General Fund and will be spent on unrelated projects.


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