Summering in South Alabama

School is about to start.  Actually we homeschool year-round so our vacation just started…yesterday.  We relaxed.  I took a nap.

Schools here in Baldwin County start the 10th, I’m told. 

We’re taking the entire month of August off.  We’ll be driving to the beach with little to no traffic; we’ll be in museums with little crowds;  the stores won’t be as crowded and they’ll have their end of year sales that we can shop.

Most of all, we’ll finally get to see what this area is like.  We moved here Memorial Day weekend and after emptying boxes for 2 weeks settled back to school.  We’ve taken time out for tennis team practice, swimming on Wednesday’s with the homeschool club I joined, and meeting up with friends in the afternoons once math, Latin and reading assignments were complete.  Now we have all day to explore. 

I’m hoping to get to: 5 Rivers, Bon Secour, Gulf Shores, Ft Morgan, Orange Beach, the Battleship, Dauphin Island, Weeks Bay Estuary, Foley Outlets, the Mardi Gras museum, Ft Conde and other cool places.  I want to drive to Pensacola to check out the dinosaur/creation museum I’ve heard about.  We’ll collect seaweed for our marine tank; follow the Alabama birding trail; head over to FL and do some of the birding trail in that Panhandle; go letterboxing in Baldwin County (seems a great trail of clues and boxes would start in Daphne and end at Ft Morgan); go  fishing.  Of course, Wednesday’s we’ll still swim with the homeschool club and we’ll head to the Exploreum for a science class.  Next week we’ll vacation in New Orleans (Gary’s birthday wish).  We haven’t been there in years; definitely pre-Katrina. 

And, I’ll write about everything we’ve been doing so stay tuned.

Dr. Beach’s best beaches

Dr. Beach has released his America’s Best Beaches 2009 and only one Gulf Coast beach made the top ten list.  Siesta Key came in #2. 

The #1 beach on Dr. Beach’s list is Hanalei Beach in Hawaii.  Wow, it’s gotta be the ultimate to beat out Siesta Key. 

According to a press release by the Laboratory for Coastal Research and National Healthy Beaches Campaign at the Florida International University, 50 criteria were used to evaluate the beaches.  These included water and sand quality, and facilities and environmental management. 

For more information about Dr Beach check out his website: www.drbeach.org.

Alabama’s 5 Star Beach

The Natural Resources Defense Council released its ratings list for beaches around the U.S. and Alabama’s Gulf Shores Public Beach.   It’s the highest ranking available by the NRDC.

Gulf Shores recieved a star for each of the following: water quality in 2008, water quality the last 3 years, water quality testing frequency, always issues advisories promptly, posts closings and advisories online and at the beach.

There were no other Gulf Coast beaches that recieved 5 stars.  In fact, not many beaches around the country have been so honored.  Most of the other 5 star beaches are in California, NH, MN, and MD (Ocean City, where I hung out as a child).  A large number of beaches had 4 stars.  Why? Well, if these beaches had tested their water more frequently, they too would be 5 star beaches.  NRDC gives a star if you test at least twice a week. 

Unfortunately most FL beaches fell way short of the 5 stars.  Edgewater Beach, Silversands Beach,  and the Santa Rosa beaches all fell short one star.  Again it was the testing the water issue.  But that doesn’t make them a horrible beach.  They’re doing everything else ok: good water quality and diligent postings when there is a problem.  I guess NRDC just wants the beach towns to pay more attention to the water quality.

Along the Gulf Coast, Texas and Louisiana both had 2 four-star beaches.  Mississippi beaches ranked only 2 stars for issuing and posting advisories.

Here’s a link to the list of 200 popular US beaches and their NRDC rating: http://www.nrdc.org/water/oceans/ttw/200beaches.asp