Gulf Islands National Seashore and the Florida Department of Transportation Announce the Reopening of Fort Pickens Road
Contact: Nina Kelson, 850-934-2606
Contact: Tommie Speight (FDOT), 850-638-0250
A final inspection of the Fort Pickens Road work was conducted this morning. At the close of business today, May, 20, 2009, the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) will turn the Fort Pickens Road over to the National Park Service. Gulf Islands National Seashore Superintendent Eubanks announced that the roadway gates will open to vehicular traffic at 7:00 a.m. on Friday, May 22, 2009. A formal ceremony will be scheduled within the next few weeks. Eubanks said, “We are excited to get this natural, recreational and historic area reopened to the public and look forward to restoring full service in the near future.” FDOT District Secretary Larry Kelley said FDOT is proud to have played a role in the reconstruction of this major tourist route. “We are pleased to have this long awaited road reopened from Pensacola Beach to Fort Pickens.”
Superintendent Eubanks added, “It is important that visitors understand there is still much work to be accomplished within the Fort Pickens Area and, upon reopening, full visitor services will not be available.” The Seashore will be working to bring services back on-line as quickly as possible. The following information is provided for those visiting the National Seashore:
Ø The road is being opened at the time of heavy shorebird nesting activity and many nests are already in place near the road. In order to protect these birds, the roadway between the entrance and the Ranger Station is posted and will be enforced at 15 miles-per-hour. After this year’s nesting season, the posted speed limit will be 35 miles-per-hour.
Ø Initially, utilities (electric, water and dump stations) will not be available in the campground. Campground Loops A, C and E (158 sites) will be open on a first come-first served basis. Restrooms will be closed but portable toilets will be available at each loop. At Loop A, the use of generators will not be allowed between 10:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. Camping fee will be $10 per night and campers must register at the Fort Pickens Ranger Station between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.
Ø Visitors should be prepared in advance to bring their own water for drinking, washing, and cooking. Remember: “One gallon of drinking water per person per day.”
Ø The Campground Store will not be open this season, however, limited supplies and grocery items will soon be available at the Firehouse Snack Bar which is located near the fishing pier.
Ø Since telephone lines are not currently hard-wired, the ability to use credit/debit cards to pay entrance/camping fees may be intermittent. When the Firehouse Snack Bar reopens they will not have the capability of using credit/debit cards. Please plan accordingly.
Ø Because the main campground has been closed since 2004, visitors need to be aware of and watch for wildlife, including snakes, in visitor areas.
Ø The Fort Pickens Area will be open daily from 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. The Fort Pickens Visitor Center will be open from 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and free fort tours are scheduled at 2:00 p.m. daily.
Ø Full-time lifeguard services at Langdon Beach will begin on Saturday, May 23 (9 a.m. – 6:30 p.m.).
Ø Due to the road being constructed mostly at grade, the Fort Pickens Road will be more subject to flooding from major rain events as well as tropical systems. Consequently, it may be necessary to close the Area and campground on short notice.
Ø Visitors are urged to remove their own trash and help the Seashore out by picking up extra debris or trash whenever possible.
Ø Call 911 for emergencies or *55 with a cell phone.
Superintendent Eubanks reminds visitors that the Fort Pickens Area was heavily damaged by the 2004/2005 storm events, including Hurricane Ivan, and to expect major appearance changes to the area. Recovery is still in progress and asphalt debris is still scattered and visible. Facilities and services at Fort Pickens will continue to change in the months ahead. For your safety and the protection of park resources, do not enter posted closed areas. Be aware of work crews and heavy equipment throughout the park. Be safe and wear shoes while walking on the beach or while wading. Said Eubanks, “We regret that services will be limited, however, we understand how anxious our visitors are to return and to experience once again this wonderful resource.”
As the National Seashore continues recovery and moves towards more normal operations, every effort will be made to keep information current on our website at www.nps.gov/guis. For additional camping and fee information call 850-934-2621; for information on other park programs contact the Naval Live Oaks Visitor Center at (850) 934-2600 or visit our website.
Did You Know?
The Third System fortifications consisted of 42 forts built between 1816 and 1870. They were used to guard all the principal harbors, rivers, and naval yards of the United States. Only the Advanced Redoubt of Fort Barrancas at Gulf Islands National Seashore was built entirely for land defense.