Pensacola, Florida
Saturday March 23rd 2019


Saving Carpenter’s Creek

By Rick Outzen

Over 100 Pensacola residents attended the Tuesday night town hall concerning the future of Carpenter’s Creek. Councilwoman Sherri Myers hosted the gathering, but Mayor Ashton Hayward and his administration chose to skip the meeting held at Cokesbury United Methodist Church on North Ninth Avenue.

On News Talk 1370 WCOA’s “Pensacola Speaks,” Myers said that the council’s staff and the University of West Florida students had worked hard to make sure those who live around Carpenter’s Creek knew about the meeting.

“We’ve had students from UWF involved in this project who’ve been working on going door to door, knocking on doors telling residents, ‘We’re having a town hall meeting. Please come,’” said Myers. “We have a great cross-section of people working on this issue, just ordinary everyday people and scientists and environmentalists and students and professors.”

Carpenter Creek is listed by the EPA as an impaired body of water. Its restoration is a West Florida Regional Planning Council’s recommendation that the Board of County Commissioners has shown a great deal of interest. The RESTORE Advisory Committee ranked it the second highest environmental project, only behind Eleven Mile Creek Stream Restoration

“There are a lot of people who live along Carpenter’s Creek,” she said. “I did, with the help of the city council staff, send out 300 letters, fliers to every property owner along the creek in the city limits.”

Myers added, “This project is very, very important. Carpenter’s Creek is a tributary that’s protected under the United States Clean Water Act. Basically, whatever happens in Carpenter’s Creek ends up in Bayou Texar. We had a lot of older people there at the meeting. Many of them have lived along the creek for 30, 40, 50 years. Many of the people remember that Carpenter’s Creek at one time was a major recreational facility in this area.”

Myers said that Commissioner Grover Robinson, who chose the Carpenter Creek/Bayou Texar project as one of the projects he has submitted to the Board of County Commissioner for RESTORE funding, had several people from the county at the town hall. Commissioner May attended, as did representatives from the West Florida Regional Planning Council, University of West Florida, and Laurie Murphy from the Emerald Coastkeepers.

“Dr. Elizabeth Benchley from the UWF Archaeology Department was there last night because they are very interested in the history of Carpenter’s Creek,” said Myers. “We believe that the British in the 1700s used Carpenter’s Creek, possibly had a mill there, and had a dam. There’s some very rich historical, archaeological sites there that need to be explored.”

The District 2 councilwoman told Inweekly that she specifically invited City Administrator Eric Olson to the town hall meeting. Mayor Hayward discontinued holding town hall meetings in December 2013.

“I don’t know if they were busy, but their absence speaks volumes,” said Myers. “I was told by Keith Wilkins Friday that Eric Olson was going to send somebody, and nobody that I know of showed up to identify themselves as a person from the city. I am very disappointed.”

The list of projects that Mayor Hayward sent to the Board of County Commissioners did not include Carpenter’s Creek.  The mayor’s wish list for RESTORE funds had repairs to a port berth, a marina for the Maritime Park, the long-awaited Hollie T. Williams stormwater/recreational project, and a pervious surface parking lot for the General Daniel “Chappie” James, Jr. Memorial Park.

While the mayor has shied away from public meetings with residents for the past three years, Myers has continued to hold town hall meetings in her district.

“I am a big believer in town hall meetings because it gets you close to the people,” she said. “It gives them a voice, and it allows them to participate. I just, I love town hall meetings.”

She praised the work of the council staff and UWF in helping get the word out about the Tuesday meeting.

“Now that we have our own staff, I actually have the money and the staff to send out notices to my constituents. The reason there were so many people there last night is because our city council staff worked hard to get them there. I didn’t have that resource before. I had to do it all on my own at my own expense.”

Myers said the city owns a four-acre stormwater area along Carpenter Creek, which she hopes to convince city officials to make a green space.

“My vision for Carpenter’s Creek is going to be the collective vision of the citizens of this area,” she said. “We’re going to hold more meetings and the next meeting will probably be in early February because we want the community and the people who reside along the creek to develop a visionary plan for this creek.”

Meanwhile, Myers said she would reach out to the large corporations that own land abutting the creek.

“I really want to partner with them, because basically, they don’t need a lot of the land that’s along Carpenter’s Creek,” she said. “I’m hopeful there are corporate and commercial entities along the creek that will want to help us with our project to restore the creek, to give the public access, and to make it a beautiful greenway again and a recreational facility.”