Categories: environmentgovernment

A Crusade for Carpenters Creek

by Jeremy Morrison

Pensacola City Councilwoman Sherri Myers likes to hear people’s recollections of Carpenters Creek, a body of water designated as impaired by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

“It used to be a recreational venue, it used to be a green space,” she explained. “I’d say 60 or 70 years ago, not really that long ago.”

The councilwoman’s constituents tell her about their younger days spent swimming in the creek. Back when the Cordova Mall area served as a city dump, back before all the developments, with their impervious parking lots, ate up the trees and swallowed the landscape.

“It was deep enough you could actually dive into it,” Myers said in late September. “[Assistant City Administrator] Keith Wilkins actually told me he saw a diving board not too long ago around 12th Avenue.”

Over the years, as the area around Carpenters Creek has been developed — at times robbing the creek of its riparian, or buffer, zone — the waterway has degraded and filled in with sediment. More recently, trash has been flooding into the creek, clogging it with dams of debris.

Councilwoman Myers knows that the creek will never return to what it once was, with the swimming and the diving and the idyllic mid-century recreating, but she’s hoping that with some energy and effort — and maybe some municipal muscle — it can be vastly improved from its current state.

To that end, the councilwoman has teamed up with Emerald Coastkeeper Laurie Murphy. She has been working with the environmental organization to raise awareness about the state of Carpenters Creek and will be hosting a community meeting scheduled for Nov. 1 to discuss the issue.

“Laurie and I are going to be going door to door all along Carpenters Creek,” Myers explained as the two planned their course of action.

The councilwoman is inviting property owners near the creek to provide public input about what measures might be taken to improve the quality of the waterway.

“I want to hear what people’s concerns are about the creek,” Myers explained.

The councilwoman has a few thoughts of her own about what could be done to improve Carpenters Creek. For starters, she’d like to see a 50-foot distance required between the creek and dumpsters, and perhaps some incentives offered to developers to implement more environmentally-friendly parking lots and developments.

“I think the greening up of the parking lots in my district would do more than anything,” Myers said, pointing to the stormwater and erosion concerns associated with the oceans of asphalt in the area and suggesting that many of the national-chain retailers located near the creek might be willing to retrofit areas behind their stores to serve as a better filter for the watershed.

Also on the table for the community meeting: a discussion about how best to handle the clearing of debris or sediment from the creek bed. Because of private property rights — which extend into the creek — the city, as well as Escambia County, is limited insofar as what it can do to clear the creek.

“But you know what, we can change that. If people will give us easements along the creek, the city can go in and maintain that,” Myers said. “We can give people help, but they have to give us the right to go on their property.”

Myers said she thinks the pubic will be “very receptive” to such measures.

The councilwoman is inviting residents living along Carpenters Creek, as well as Bayou Texar to attend the community meeting.

“Ultimately, whatever happens in Carpenters Creek ends up in Bayou Texar and Pensacola Bay,” Myers pointed out.

In addition to Myers and Murphy, Escambia County Board of County Commissioners Chairman Grover Robinson is also suppose to attend the Carpenters Creek meeting. The chairman listed a project aimed at improving the condition of the creek and bayou as one of his top choices as Escambia considers which efforts to focus on when it comes to making use of environmental restorations funds associated with the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

The Nov. 1 community meeting begins at 6 p.m. at the Cokesbury United Methodist Church, located at 5925 North 9th Ave.

For more on this issue, see “Up a Creek, or a Watershed Moment.”

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