Beaches crowded over holiday weekend, but oil fears linger for some

By: Panama City News Herald
By: Panama City News Herald

PANAMA CITY BEACH — The beach was thronged with babies and babes, swimmers and sandcastle makers and those who just needed a timeout from the stresses of places like Tallahassee and La Grange and Columbus.

Bills, the economy and other problems were all put aside for a weekend at the beach, according to Anthony and Amanda Shamburger, a couple from Columbus who brought their two sons and other family members to St. Andrew State Park on Sunday.

“We’re trying to forget about it for a minute,” said 29-year-old Amanda Shamburger.

Anthony Shamburger, 34, added that worry wouldn’t help the economy turn around or bring back lost jobs.

“Ain’t no sense to stress out over something you can’t control,” he said.

He had a similar attitude toward the BP oil gusher that threatens local waters. It came from the ground and it will go back into the ground on it’s own, naturally, he said.

“Nature is going to take care of itself,” Anthony Shamburger said.

But that was not the way Monique Prater felt about the oil.

“I’m pretty conflicted,” she said. Her children were in the kiddie pool at St. Andrews State park but she was not completely certain that the water was safe. Clean up crews near the area also had her nervous.

“It didn’t look like oil but it could have been anything,” Prater said. She added that the oil may not be as bad as the litter left behind by some beach goers.

For Steve Carter, a 44-year-old Tallahassee resident, the oil threat was not enough to keep him away from an-other of his frequent visits to the beach.

“None of that stuff scared me at all,” he said.

Carter’s attitude may not have been the prevailing one this summer. The July bed tax numbers, one of the primary indicators of tourism on Panama City Beach, were down by nearly 15 percent. Despite that grim news, which came out on Friday, business owners had a reason to celebrate as they headed into Labor Day weekend.

Perfect weather, three sporting events and “pent up demand” seemed to signal a large crowd was headed to Bay County. Several local hotel owners reported that they were completely booked for the weekend.

For Roger and Molly Allen, this weekend was another one of their regular visits to the area. The couple and their children leave La Grange, Ga. and come to town often, they said.

“We love the beach,” Roger Allen said. “We always come down here.”

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