PCB Turtle Watch officials concerned about new Front Beach lighting

Published: Jun. 3, 2022 at 6:49 PM CDT
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PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Front Beach Road has been undergoing some serious upgrades, adding new sidewalks and lighting to help with pedestrian safety. But illuminating areas so close to the sand isn’t always a good thing. A local organization is worried it could harm our sea turtles.

Bright red ribbon and yellow caution tape mark the eighth sea turtle nest of the season Friday morning.

“We are on a good roll right now,” Nancy Evou, Senior Surveyor for Panama City Beach Turtle Watch, said.

Panama City Beach Turtle Watch is a group dedicated to protecting one of the area’s most precious creatures.

“Loggerheads, which are the most common on our beach, are threatening to become endangered due to many things,” Evou said. “Loss of habitat, fishing, shrimping, I could go on.”

One of the biggest concerns seems so simple, but it’s lighting.

“Because their cue is the brightest horizon so if they can’t see the brightest horizon which should lead them back to the water, because of all the lights,” Evou said. “They’re going the wrong way, they end up in the dunes, they end up in parking lots, swimming pools.”

It’s an upsetting possibility Turtle Watch Director Kennard Watson addressed in a letter to the city asking for, “information on street lighting upgrades along Front Beach Road as part of the Community Redevelopment Area (CRA) plan.”

According to Watson’s letter, there are some options for safe lighting that the city already has in place at Pier Park. There are shielded amber pole lights lining part of the road. They have a tint of color to them, which is less disruptive to the sea turtles than a bright white light would be.

“The wavelength that they see is not like us, so no lights are the best but humans need lights,” Evou said.

It’s a balance Panama City Beach City Manager Drew Whitman addressed in a letter back to Watson. He said the new lights are, “maintaining the shields that keep the light source from being visible from the beach and any turtles that may venture upon it.”

Turtle Watch officials are asking both residents and visitors that if they see a sea turtle come up on shore, make sure to call Beach Police.

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