Apalachicola Crossroads, Part 2

By: Jason Davis
By: Jason Davis

Apachicola has seen change before. Timber, cotton and seafood have all at one time or another been the driving force behind the town's economy, but is the town ready for another transition?

Apalachicola is a Native American word for “land beyond.” Some say if the town wants to survive, its people will have to look beyond a life and an economy that's been heavily dependent on the seafood industry.

Apalachicola is part of the so-called forgotten coast, but the people who live here haven't forgotten their roots. They're hoping to use their past to reinvent the town and create a new future of tourism.

Nancy Kerr, an art store owner, says, "We provide the tourist with unique and unusual things, and the town itself is the oyster capital of the world, the best oysters in the world."

The downtown area is filled with shops that have an old world flare, and there are the charter boats, which continue to do their part to keep the seafood industry alive, now that most of the oyster houses closed.

Boyd Howze, Mayor of Apalachicola, says, “As the tourist people come here they hire guides and go sports fishing which pumps money back in the city of Apalachicola and into the county, so they all compliment one another and work well."

In November of 2004, Franklin County began the collection of a two percent bed tax, paving the way for tourism to move into heavyweight division of Apalachicola's economy.

Anita Grove of the Chamber of Commerce says, "People like a place like Apalachicola, it's authentic, it's a real town."

Thousands come every year to the annual seafood festival. Events like this showcase the town's flavor in more ways than one.

"We always try to come down have some shrimp, fresh oysters, that kind of thing." "

It's a cultural thing, a lot of culture and different subcultures come together for this event, so we all gather and celebrate and have a good time"

But can it work? Can the tourism industry continue to grow without infringing on what's been the lifeline to this economy for so long?

Joseph Parrish, seafood plant manager, says, "As far as tourism and seafood, we can have it all, if it is done properly, if it is planned properly."

Knowing the seafood industry is constantly losing its waterfront property, the city's currently working on a project that will bring docks to the down town area allowing transient boats to unload seafood.

"It's a balance I think everyone tries to maintain. We don't want to lose either industry, tourism or seafood, it's something that works well together."

One of the area's most popular sites is the lighthouse on little St. George Island. It finally fell victim to time and the elements. Its care takers have vowed to reassemble it as a symbol of hope, and those charged with Apalachicola's future look to the bay to take care of them just as it did yesterday and the day before.

Those folks that came to this year's Florida Seafood Festival looking for Apalachicola oysters had to settle for oysters from Louisiana and Texas.

Some were disappointed, but fortunately it didn't effect the large turnout and organizers are hoping to have the delicacy back on the menu very soon.


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