Tar balls washing up on beaches in the Panhandle. Oil-covered wildlife in Louisiana.
As the Deepwater Horizon oil spill wreaks havoc to the northwest of us, the prospect of the disaster turning toward the Suncoast looms heavy on the minds of local environmentalists and nature lovers. And despite indications it won't hit our beaches, there's no guarantee we won't be affected.
With this in mind, we asked readers if you could visit one place along the coast in Pinellas County before the oil hits, where would it be?
From Phil Kenyon, Dunedin
This is what makes Honeymoon Island my favorite:
• The north end of the beach … crystal clear water and few people.
• The nature walk … eagle, osprey and owl nests and other wildlife.
• Pet beach … I've never seen a dog fight there in 38 years.
• Main beach … by the snack bar is great for people watching.
From Fred Watkins, Crystal Beach
Three Rooker Sand Bar (between the north tip of Honeymoon Island State Park and the south tip of Anclote Key Preserve State Park). We love this spot because of the pristine beach sand, the clear water and always a place to anchor out of the wind. The people who come out there respect the cleanliness. It will be a sad day when oil shows up.
From Judy Deeley, Clearwater
Biking along Gulf Boulevard, running along the gulf shore, swimming in the Gulf of Mexico; has anything really changed? The sweet salty smells wafting in the air, the inner peace is felt. Colors cascade: blue by day, orange and pink by dusk. How can one truly pick one favorite? All of Pinellas County's Gulf Beaches and their beauty are tops.
Rea Sieber, St. Petersburg
My husband Michael and I have paddled most Florida waters in the past 38 years, and have included our daughter Michelle for the last 17 years. For the past 14 years, Michael and I have been competitive paddlers, and our favorite area to paddle and train is still in "our back yard."
We have property west of Park Street off Boca Ciega Bay. From where we put in, we can head north up the Cross Bayou all the way to Bardmoor, where the water becomes less navigable, and we are forced to turn around. This is a beautiful and peaceful 9-mile round trip paddle, with practically no boat traffic.
Another waterway up Cross Bayou will take us to the base of Lake Seminole, where a short portage will put us in the fresh water lake. If we head directly west from where we live, we can paddle through John's Pass and around Treasure Island. This offers the experience and sometimes challenge of the gulf as well as Boca Ciega Bay.
Some of our best experiences have been paddling recreationally in Boca Ciega Bay. During low tide, several small islands form just east of John's Pass. There you can find unbelievable sea life. One of these islands is a favorite spot of Michelle's and our dog, Isabelle.
We've witnessed fireworks during Fourth of July when paddling to this spot, fishing in the canoe, and the general peacefulness and calmness of being out on the water.
So even though we often paddle in Clearwater, around Caladesi Island, and Honeymoon Island with our outriggers, we still love paddling in "our own back yard."