Health advisories issued for Miramar and Blue Mountain beach

healthdeptlogoThe Florida Department of Health in Walton County (DOH-Walton) conducts regularly scheduled saltwater beach water quality monitoring at seven sites through the Healthy Beaches Monitoring Program. Samples are collected from March through the end of October. The water samples are analyzed for enteric bacteria (enterococci) that normally inhabit the intestinal tract of humans and animals, which may cause human disease, infections, or rashes. The presence of enteric bacteria is an indication of fecal pollution, which may come from storm water runoff, pets and wildlife, and human sewage. The purpose of the Healthy Beaches Monitoring Program is to determine whether Florida has significant coastal beach water quality problems and whether future beach monitoring efforts are necessary.


Site Name Enterococci Water Quality
SP-1 Miramar Beach 804 Poor
SP-3 Dune Allen Beach 4 Good
SP-4 Blue Mountain Beach 996 Poor
SP-5 Grayton Beach 4 Good
SP-7 Holly Street Beach 4 Good
SP-8 Eastern Lake Beach 4 Good
SP-9 Inlet Beach Access 4 Good

Water quality classifications are based upon United States Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) recommended criteria and Florida Healthy Beaches Program Categories:

Good = 0 – 35 Enterococci CFU per 100 ml of marine

Moderate = 36 – 70 Enterococci CFU per 100 ml of marine water

Poor = 71 or greater Enterococci CFU per 100 ml of marine water

Health Advisories have been issued for the Miramar Beach Access and the Blue Mountain Beach Access based on the enterococci standard recommended by the EPA. This should be considered a potential health risk to the bathing public.

If you should have any questions, please contact DOH-Walton at (850) 892-8021 or visit the Florida Department of Health’s Beach Water Quality website

About the Florida Department of Health

The department works to protect, promote and improve the health of all people in Florida through integrated state, county and community efforts.

Follow us on Twitter at @HealthyFla and on Facebook. For more information about the Florida Department of Health please visit

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Cool off on a hot summer day at Morrison Springs

Swim, snorkel, dive or paddle at Morrison Springs. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

Swim, snorkel, dive or paddle at Morrison Springs. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

Walton County Park offers spectacular scenery both above and below the water line

Walton County offers many places to explore. In the summertime, the one that can’t be beat is Morrison Springs in the Northeastern part of the county.

Just south of Ponce De Leon, the 161-acre park is well known in the area, and popular with divers and nature enthusiasts across the south. Cypress trees abound around the spring with their crisp, bright green needles defining the landscape. The spring provides an aqua color inviting everyone in for a dip.

The highlight of the park is a 250-foot diameter spring pool that produces an estimated 48 million gallons of crystal clear water each day and has been recorded to produce up to 70 million gallons a day. Three cavities allow Morrison’s frigid waters to surface from the underground aquifer. The deepest of these cavities, at approximately 300 foot in depth, eventually terminates in an underground chamber of unknown dimensions.

Recently completed renovations include approximately 575 linear ft. of boardwalks meandering through the ancient cypress trees, and span into the springs to a diver’s launching area, with a 10×10 ft. 9,000 lb. floating concrete platform.

Morrison Springs is a favorite of divers.

Morrison Springs is a favorite of divers.

Restroom facilities, a pavilion with picnic area, wash stations, showers and handicap access are available at the park now, offering it the perfect family destination.

There are 72 parking spaces at the entrance to the park, which include 10 bus and 4 handicap spaces. There are 24 boat/trailer spaces located at the boat ramp.

The park was acquired by the state in 2004 and its management is now entrusted to Walton County for 99 years.  The project is also part of the ‘DEP Springs Initiative;’ a comprehensive protection effort which provides funding for springs restoration throughout the state of Florida.

Morrison Springs is located in the most southeastern part of Ponce deLeon just inside the Walton County line. From Freeport, take State Road 20 east to State Road 81 and go north past Red Bay to County Highway 181C. Turn right and continue 1.6 miles. Turn a right on Morrison Springs Road. Click here for map

Hours: Open daily, sunrise to sunset.
Fees: None

Click here for related story

Posted in Birding, Eco adventure, Fishing, Kayak/Canoe, Nature, Outdoor Family Fun, paddle/surf/boat, Parks | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Century plants can pack a powerful punch to gardeners

Century plant (Agave Americana).

Century plant (Agave Americana).

When landscaping in dry, sandy areas, century plants (Agave Americana) are often a popular choice when xeriscaping is in mind. The plant is drought tolerant, and does well in the sandy soil of coastal landscapes. The leaves get up to 6′ long and 10″ wide, and the flower stalk is branched, 20-40′ tall, it bears large yellow-green flowers.

However, most folks are not aware the Agave Americana has several toxic compounds. It contains the irritating calcium oxylate raphides (microscopic daggers of crystaline oxylate) as well as irritating oils in the sap.

If your skin encounters the agave, wash affected areas, add cool compresses for pain and swelling, and treat with antihistamines if needed. Even safer, consult your doctor immediately.

Santa Rosa Beach resident Kelly Roe explains her recent encounter with a century plant:

Reaction to exposure to the Agave Americana. Photo courtesy Kelly Roe.

Reaction to exposure to the Agave Americana. Photo courtesy Kelly Roe.

“Last Wednesday began like any other day. I was having coffee out on the deck and looking at an area of my yard I wanted to change.

My cactus was big but I felt like it was too close to my fence and couldn’t grow to its full potential, thus never blooming. I decided to try to move it myself. I needed to cut off two of the very bottom leaves so I could get a shovel to the base of it.

At first, I whacked it a couple of times with a small hatchet. That didn’t work very fast so I got my clippers and began to cut the thick, gooey flesh. I tossed a piece behind me and it brushed against my leg.

‘No big deal’ I thought, ‘probably a lot like an aloe’ and I continued on. One shovel in and a little twisting and it came right up.

I went on to do some other things in the yard and never thought about the cactus hitting my leg. Later that day, it started to get a little red but again, didn’t think much of it. It didn’t itch, didn’t hurt. The next day it was more inflamed and it started to hurt when I walked. I couldn’t believe it. I did some looking on the Internet and found that it is indeed, poisonous. Calcium oxalate raphides are crystals contained in the leaves and can cause redness, irritation, and pain. And when I say pain, I mean pain! After sitting for a period and then I stand up, pain. Standing at the kitchen counter, pain! It’s the most bizarre thing I think I’ve ever felt. The only thing I can think that comes close is a motorcycle muffler burn.

After five days, the pain is finally starting to go away. It is still very red and it’s starting to itch. I’m hoping the itch is a sign that it’s healing. I just know that I had no clue about it and I’m betting many others aren’t aware of this reaction. Consider yourself warned. Wear protective clothing and certainly gloves when working with this plant.”

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Bay scallop conservation measures approved for St. Joe Bay

scallopSt. Joe Bay season Aug. 22 – Sept. 5

At the June 23 meeting near Apalachicola, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) approved measures to conserve bay scallops in the St. Joseph Bay area. The measures include delaying and shortening the recreational bay scallop season so it will open Aug. 22, run through Sept. 5, 2016 (Labor Day), and will close to harvest Sept. 6, as well as changing the daily bag limit to 40 scallops per person or 200 per vessel, whichever is less, in all waters west of St. Vincent Island through the west bank of Mexico Beach Canal in Bay County.

Ongoing research and monitoring results indicate bay scallops in Gulf County were negatively impacted during a 2015 red tide event in the area. There has not been any red tide observed in the bay since January, and areas east of Gulf County do not appear to have been impacted.

The FWC has been working closely with Gulf County in a coordinated and cooperative effort to minimize negative impacts associated with potential low scallop numbers this summer. The FWC will continue monitoring the bay, and is currently conducting restoration efforts. FWC researchers have already collected 650 scallops and placed them in cages in the bay to help promote spawning, and will continue to collect more scallops for restoration purposes. Caged scallops will be marked. Tampering with or scalloping in areas near cages that are marked with no scalloping signage is prohibited.

In areas east of the western point of St. Vincent Island through the Pasco-Hernando county line, the 2016 bay scallop season will open June 25 through Sept. 24, closing Sept. 25 and the bag limit remains 2 gallons of whole bay scallops or 1 pint of meat per person, per day, with a vessel limit of 10 gallons of whole bay scallops or a half-gallon of meat. Areas west of the Mexico Beach Canal in Bay County are closed to bay scallop harvest.
Scallops may be collected by hand or with a landing or dip net, and must be landed within the area that is open to harvest.

There is no commercial harvest allowed for bay scallops in Florida.
Be safe when diving for scallops. Stay within 300 feet of a properly displayed divers-down warning device (flag, buoy, etc.) when scalloping in open water and within 100 feet of a properly displayed divers-down warning device if on a river, inlet or navigation channel. Boat operators traveling within 300 feet of a divers-down warning device in open water or 100 feet of one on a river, inlet or navigational channel must slow to idle speed. Learn more about divers down warning devices at by clicking on “Regulations.”

Help FWC’s scallop researchers by completing an online survey at Harvesters can indicate where they harvest scallops, how many they collect and how long it takes to harvest them. Participants can email [email protected] to ask questions or send additional information.

Learn more about long-term trends in the open and closed scalloping areas by visiting and clicking on “Saltwater,” “Mollusc,” “Bay Scallops” and “Season.”
For regulation updates, visit and click on “Saltwater,” “Recreational Regulations” and “Bay Scallops.”

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Twists and turns keep you paddling on Turkey Creek

 Swift and clear, Turkey Creek brings lots of paddling action. Lori Ceier/

Swift and clear, Turkey Creek brings lots of paddling action. Lori Ceier/

Turkey Creek paddle full of beautiful surprises

One of Northwest Florida’s most scenic waterways is the narrow, seepage spring fed Turkey Creek just west of Niceville. Located on Eglin Air Force Base Reservation, just off of SR 85, Turkey Creek meanders through the Reservation offering a challenging and beautiful paddle approximately 9 miles long.

Swift and clear, the first two thirds of the paddle is tight, filled with twists and turns, and beautiful vistas as you maneuver the waterway. Trees drape over the creek, providing an abundance of shade for the first half of your journey. Native plants such as colorful St. John’s wort and pitcher plants add color along the way.

Crystal clear water on Turkey Creek. Lori Ceier/

Crystal clear water on Turkey Creek. Lori Ceier/

Launching from the area nicknamed the Hippie Hole, the creek eventually empties into Boggy Bayou just south of SR 20 in Valparaiso, which is just west of Niceville.

About 5 miles into the paddle, you have an option to take out at a small bridge crossing AFB Road 232. Before you get to Boggy Bayou, you will pass through the Turkey Creek Recreation area – a popular park for cooling off on a hot summer day day.

Pitcher plant in bloom along Turkey Creek. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

Pitcher plant in bloom along Turkey Creek. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

Paddling Turkey Creek requires a recreation permit from Eglin AFB. You can acquire a permit by visiting the Jackson Guard Natural Resources Facility at 107 Hwy. 85 just north of Hwy. 20. (850) 882-4164 or (850) 882-4165.  Their offices  are open Mon. – Sat. and accept cash or check only. You may also purchase a permit online. To open an account, go to You must also check their website to ensure there are no closings in the recreation area the day you are paddling.

There are no kayak or canoe rental facilities in the immediate area.

How to get there:
The put in is located on Eglin Reservation 5 miles north of Hwy. 20, in Niceville off SR 85.
I-10 Crestview Exit 56 Hwy 85 South 15 mi. Turn right 0.2 mi before 85-123 Y [N30 34.102 W86 31.773]. AFB 232 0.5 mi Canoe Launch bridge [N30 33.708 W86 32.178]. Continue 1.5 mi. Turn right AFB 233 1.5 mi to Hippie Hole bridge [N30 34.870 W86 34.473].
A good take out is on Boggy Bayou in Valpariaso at a small public park next to the cement plant on Hwy 20. ::MAP::

Interested in learning more about paddling Northwest Florida? The Florida Panhandle Canoe and Kayak Connection and the West Florida Canoe and Kayak Club offer many group paddles in the Panhandle.

Map courtesy Jim Parker

Map courtesy Jim Parker

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FWC votes to postpone bear hunting in 2016

fwclogo20071EASTPOINT, Fla. – July 22 the seven-member Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) voted to postpone bear hunting in Florida in 2016. Although the framework for bear hunting in Florida remains in place, there will be a zero hunt objective set for 2016, and the Commission could consider future bear hunting in 2017.

Nick Wiley, FWC executive director said, “Although hunting has been demonstrated to be a valuable tool to control bear populations across the country, it is just one part of FWC’s comprehensive bear management program. I am proud of our staff who used the latest, cutting-edge, peer-reviewed science to develop a recommendation for our Commissioners to consider. Our agency will continue to work with Floridians, the scientific community and local governments as our focus remains balancing the needs of Florida’s growing bear population with what’s best for families in our state. I would like to thank all seven of our Commissioners for their leadership on this important issue.”

Not holding a 2016 bear hunt will give FWC more time to work with stakeholders, local communities and the public to better develop the important role hunting plays in Florida’s comprehensive bear management program. FWC would also continue to work with local communities and the public to advance innovative ways to reduce human-bear conflicts with the understanding that a bear hunt in 2017 could be considered as an important conservation activity to control Florida’s growing bear population. This would allow time for staff and Commissioners to address conflict bear population data to ensure any future hunts are focused where needed.

This year, FWC will implement, monitor and measure the $825,000 investment for local communities to reduce human-bear conflict. Florida is a national leader for investing on the reduction of human-bear conflicts in communities, and FWC will continue to work with local governments to keep families safe. More details on that funding will be announced in the near future.

FWC’s comprehensive Black Bear Management Program has achieved many accomplishments:

•    FWC hired additional staff, and now employs 30 staff and contractors across Florida who focus on bear management. The additional staff have helped launch the integrated Wildlife Incident Management System to track all bear data along with other species.

•    FWC has responded to more than 21,000 calls regarding bears, performed more than 700 site visits regarding bear conflicts, and provided outreach and educational information to nearly 50,000 people.

•    FWC established Bear Stakeholders Groups in each bear management unit and a Statewide Technical Assistance Group. These groups have allowed hundreds of Floridians to provide feedback and assistance on managing Florida’s growing bear population.

•    FWC trained over 1,600 local responders from 68 agencies and partner organizations on how to best handle bear conflicts.

•    FWC developed an MOU with WastePro in the Panhandle to quickly provide affordable bear-resistant trash cans to area residents.

•    FWC has worked with the Legislature to enhance penalties for illegally feeding bears.

•    FWC has taken steps to protect more than 185,000 acres of bear habitat statewide.

•    FWC bear biologists completed the most comprehensive, scientifically rigorous assessment of bear population size and range ever done in Florida.

•    FWC will continue to advocate for local governments to adopt Bear Wise ordinances.

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Independence Day celebrations around Walton July 4

fireworkswfdSouth Walton

8 a.m. – Seaside 4th of July Parade. Starts at Seagrove Plaza, 3723 East C-30A, Seagrove Beach. The parade will leave the plaza at 8 a.m. and travel west to Seaside where each entry will be judged.

7:15 p.m. – Find your spot on the lawn for a festive Pop’s performance from the Pensacola Symphony Orchestra.
9 p.m. – Fireworks.

Rosemary Beach
6 p.m. – Rock to the sounds of the 50s, 60s, and 80s on the Western Green.
8:45 p.m. – Enjoy a star spangled fireworks display from the beach.

Village of Baytowne Wharf, Sandestin
6 – 9 p.m. – Red, White and Baytowne.
Lawn games, inflatables, kids crafts, face painting. Live music by Soul Track Minds at 7 p.m., fireworks at 9:15 p.m.

North Walton

DeFuniak Springs
3:30 p.m. A parade around the Lakeyard. To sign up for the parade call 892-3950.

6 p.m. – Ceremonies, entertainment, children’s activities and fireworks at Wee Care Park 552 Walton Rd. DeFuniak Springs. Entertainment by recording artist Shane Owens. The fireworks were relocated this year due to Lake DeFuniak’s high water.

For more information call 830-1661.

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