Tag Archives: beaches

‘Beaches’ the musical washing ashore in Chicago

Get out your hankies — a stage musical of “Beaches” is coming.

The show, based on Iris Rainer Dart’s 1985 novel about two best girlfriends, will begin previews in June at the Drury Lane Theatre in Oakbrook Terrace, Illinois. It made its world premiere last year at Virginia’s Signature Theatre.

The film version of “Beaches,” directed by Garry Marshall and released in 1988, starred Bette Midler and Barbara Hershey as women whose friendship is tested by a love triangle, failed marriages, single parenthood and a fatal illness. It featured the song “The Wind Beneath My Wings.”

The stage version is written by Dart and Thom Thomas, with music by David Austin and lyrics by Dart. Eric Schaeffer will direct. Previews start June 24. If all goes well, producers are eying a Broadway run.

The latest version of the musical stars Shoshana Bean and Whitney Bashor. Bean’s Broadway credits include “Hairspray” and “Wicked.” Bashor was in the musical “Bridges of Madison County” and on HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire.”

Dart’s first foray on Broadway — “The People in the Picture,” based on her Jewish European forebears — starred Donna Murphy but got mixed reviews in 2011.

The “Beaches” musical will be choreographed by Lorin Latarro, have scenic design by Derek McLane, lighting design by Howell Binkley, costume design by Alejo Vietti and sound design by Kai Harada.

The Gulf of Mexico: Resilient but scarred 5 years after Deepwater Horizon spill

Five years after the BP well explosion, there is no single, conclusive answer to how the Gulf of Mexico is doing, but there are many questions. Here are some of them:

WHAT DO SCIENTISTS SAY?

To assess the health of the Gulf of Mexico, The Associated Press surveyed 26 marine scientists about two dozen aspects of the fragile ecosystem to see how this vital waterway has changed since before the April 2010 spill. On average, the researchers graded an 11 percent drop in the overall health of the Gulf.

The surveyed scientists on average said that before the spill, the Gulf was a 73 on a 0 to 100 scale. Now it’s a 65. In the survey, scientists report the biggest drops in rating the current health of oysters, dolphins, sea turtles, marshes, and the seafloor.

WHAT HAPPENED TO DOLPHINS?

Common bottlenose dolphins have been dying at a record rate in northern parts of the Gulf of Mexico since the BP spill, according to NOAA and other scientists who have published studies on the figures. From 2002 to 2009, the Gulf averaged 63 dolphin deaths a year. That rose to 125 in the seven months after the spill in 2010 and 335 in all of 2011, averaging more than 200 a year since April 2010.

That’s the longest and largest dolphin die-off ever recorded in the Gulf. But the number of deaths has started to decline, said Stephanie Venn-Watson, a veterinary epidemiologist at the Marine Mammal Foundation and a lead author of studies on the dolphin mortality.

In its report on the Gulf five years after the spill, BP said necropsies of dolphins and “other information reveal there is no evidence to conclude that the Deepwater Horizon accident had an adverse impact on bottlenose dolphin populations.”

WHAT HAPPENED TO TURTLES?

The endangered Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle used to look like a success story for biologists. It was in deep trouble and on the endangered list, but a series of actions, such as the use of turtle excluder devices, had the population soaring and it was looking like the species soon would be upgraded to merely threatened, said Selina Saville Heppell, a professor at Oregon State University.

Then, after the spill, the number of nests dropped 40 percent in one year in 2010. “We had never seen a drop that dramatic in one year before,” Heppell said. The population climbed in 2011 and 2012 but then fell again in 2013 and 2014, down to levels that haven’t been that low in nearly a decade, she said.

There is not enough data or research to blame the oil spill with scientific rigor, “but it’s a remarkable coincidence, isn’t it?” Heppell said. BP in its report said: “The changing nesting trends could be due to many factors including natural variability and record cold temperatures.”

WHAT HAPPENED TO FISH?

University of South Florida marine scientist Steve Murawski sees problems — tumors, lesions and oil traces in internal organs —in key fish such as red snapper, kingsnake eels and especially tilefish. Carcinogenic chemicals associated with oil appear to have gotten through the skin of these bottom-dwelling fish, he said.

“Their livers have fresh Macondo oil in them,” said Samantha Joye of the University of Georgia.

BP’s report said commercial catches for finfish “continue to exceed immediate pre-spill levels.”

WHAT HAPPENED TO BIRDS?

There have been at least two surveys of bird populations in Barataria Bay, the scene of the heaviest oiling and an important stopping place for numerous migratory bird species. Those surveys of shore birds and migratory birds found no obvious problems. But a recent study of native seaside sparrows in Barataria has found bird counts down.

BP said “analysis and field observations conducted to date indicate any impacts on bird populations and nesting were limited and were followed by a strong recovery.”

HOW ARE THE MARSHES?

Oil hit about 620 miles of Louisiana’s marshland. A lot of science has gone into studying the spill’s effects on the marsh, in particular in the Barataria Bay area. And Barataria is not a pretty picture. Tar balls and mats are routinely found here. Fishing remains closed in parts of the bay.

An entire mangrove island, an important bird colony, has nearly disappeared under the water. Satellite imagery shows that about a foot of marsh has been eaten away along many shorelines here. In the plants and animals scientists have identified oil contamination and they are tracking its progression in fish, birds, mice, dolphins and insects. 

BP said by 2014, “only 0.7 miles remained heavily oiled.”

HOW ARE THE BEACHES?

After an intense focus on cleaning up the Gulf’s beaches, traces of the spill are hard to find along the sugar white sands of Florida, Alabama and Mississippi. But there are places, in particular at the extremities of south Louisiana, where large oil mats are resting, getting churned up by waves and engrained with sand deposits and the fragile delta ecosystem already stressed by sea level rise, hurricanes and a host of other man-made harms.

WHERE DID THE OIL GO?

“It’s not all gone,” said former U.S. Geological Survey chief Marcia McNutt. Her team calculated that most of the oil evaporated, dissolved or dispersed. Two peer-reviewed studies by separate respected teams in 2014 and 2015 found that up to 10 million gallons of oil is left on the seafloor; one of them compared it to a bathtub ring. BP disputed those figures.

WHAT DON’T WE KNOW?

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration chief scientist Richard Spinrad said the government hopes to finish its five-year assessment on the health of the Gulf by the end of the year, so it is too early to make any real conclusions. Some problems may show up later. It was not until 10 years after 1989’s Exxon Valdez spill that scientists noticed a dramatic crash in the vital herring population.

Dr. Beach: Duke Kahanamoku in Waikiki tops 2014 beach ranking

A tourist-friendly beach named for a Hawaii surfing legend has been dubbed the best public beach in the United States in this year’s Dr. Beach ranking.

Duke Kahanamoku Beach, a well-groomed crescent of blond sand and palm trees near the Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort, beat out more than 600 other beaches for the distinction.

Stephen Leatherman, a Florida International University coastal science professor who goes by the nickname Dr. Beach, said the cleanliness, safe conditions and amenities pushed Duke Kahanamoku to the top of his 24th annual list.

“It’s safe for kids and families,” he said by phone. “The water quality’s great. The vistas are right off the scale for that place.”

Also big for him: Smoking there is banned, as it is on beaches throughout Oahu.

“I hope Hawaii sets the standard and the wave moves eastward to the mainland,” he said. “South Beach is a hot beach in Miami but sometimes there I count 10 cigarette butts in a square meter.”

On Wednesday at Duke Kahanamoku Beach, visitors lolled under umbrellas and thumbed paperbacks. Toddlers in frumpy hats undertook tiny civil engineering projects. A half-dozen surfing students in garish green rash guards paddled through the placid shallow water, past the seawall and out toward popular surf breaks.

Locals who know Hawaii may quibble about what deserves the best beach title. “There’s probably better beaches on the outer islands,” said Kainoa Haas, 22, a Honolulu surfer.

But Rhode Island tourists Robert Ferland and Stephanie DeQuattro, at Duke Kahanamoku for a ninth straight day, were impressed.

“It’s pretty,” said Ferland, 32. “We have nice beaches at home…”

“But it’s nothing like here,” DeQuattro, 30, finished for him.

Hawaii’s Waimanalo Bay Beach Park on Oahu, and Hamoa Beach on Maui, were also among the top 10 beaches Leatherman named this year.

The others were Florida’s Barefoot Beach, St. George Island State Park, Key Biscayne and Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park; North Carolina’s Cape Hatteras; Massachusetts’ Cape Cod; and South Carolina’s Kiawah Island.

Duke Kahanamoku Beach is the 13th Hawaii beach to win the distinction as America’s best — the fourth on Oahu, following Hanauma Bay, Kailua Beach Park and Lanikai Beach. Once a beach wins, Leatherman retires it from consideration for future lists.

Outside Hawaii, Florida boasts the most past winners in the Dr. Beach rankings, with seven. New York beaches have won twice, while California and North Carolina have produced one top beach apiece.

This already has been a big spring for Duke Kahanamoku Beach. In the new blockbuster movie “Godzilla,” it’s where the monster clambers out of the Pacific and into Waikiki, flooding the streets and demolishing hotels.

Leatherman, who did his Ph.D. on beach erosion, said such a kaiju attack would hurt the beach in his rankings if the debris wasn’t cleaned up. “The tsunami itself would go over top of the whole thing,” he said, “and the beach would still be there.”

No more nude sunbathing on Fire Island beaches

Modesty is returning to Fire Island as authorities announce plans to ban nude sunbathing on the 32-mile-long barrier island off Long Island this summer.

Newsday reported on Feb. 26 that Fire Island National Seashore authorities will start enforcing laws banning the decades-long practice.

Fire Island chief ranger Lena Koschmann told the newspaper there’s been an increase in complaints and observations of sexual activity, especially on the popular Lighthouse Beach.

“We’ve been struggling to make it work because Fire Island has a history of that type of use and people have been coming there for years,” Koschmann said. “The more we talked about it and researched it, the more we realized that that use wasn’t compatible with an area like Lighthouse Beach.”

Tourists visiting the lighthouse also have complained about public nudity at the beach, which has no lifeguards, bathrooms or trash cans, Koschmann said.

Dunes, which had provided some cover in the past, have now been decimated by Superstorm Sandy and no longer block the view, she said.

“There has been a huge change in the demographic and the types of activities happening there in the last 10 or 15 years,” she told the newspaper. “Now when you go out there it’s a party atmosphere — there’s DJs and music, and people partying and drinking.”

The ban also will be enforced at four other Fire Island beaches where nude sunbathing is known to take place, the newspaper said.

Koschmann said violators could face six months in jail and up to $5,000 in fines.

Felicity Jones, a co-founder of Young Naturists and Nudists America, told the newspaper she was “pretty disappointed.”

“It was the best beach we had for New Yorkers, and it’s not easy to be a nudist in New York,” said Jones, who asked that she be identified only by her pen name.

Florida is a paradise for Fido

Picture this: You’re sitting on a white sand beach, warm sun on your skin. Coconut-scented sunscreen wafts through the air. A splashing noise comes from the blue Gulf of Mexico. It’s your dog, happily retrieving her favorite ball from the water.

There’s no reason to leave your four-legged friend behind when you vacation in Florida this winter, with its miles of sandy beaches, lots of sunshine and a laid-back vibe.From lodging that offers special pet beds, to beaches with off-leash play, to theme parks with nearby kennels, many places in the state accommodate visitors with pets. Many Florida state parks also allow leashed dogs.

You can lodge your dog in a place as rustic as a campground or as ritzy as, well, the Ritz Carlton. In places like Key West or Sanibel Island – where all beaches are open to leashed dogs – unique and funky pet-friendly accommodations are easy to find in various price ranges. 

Most counties have their own tourism boards and many have specific pages on their websites about pet-friendly activities, restaurants and hotels. Visit Florida has lots of information at http://www.visitflorida.com/Pet_Friendly_Florida.

Jeannette Scott, a fashion blogger from Orlando, took her shih tzu-Yorkie mix named Bella on a three-day trip in June. Together, they drove three hours to Fort Myers, boarded a ferry to Key West, stayed at a Sheraton that offered a doggie bed for Bella, and posed for photos in front of a frozen yogurt stand that carried Yoghund, a froyo for doggies. 

“She thought it was really fun to get away and go on adventure instead of staying at home,” Scott said. 

If your dog might enjoy a trip, here are some dog-friendly destinations around Florida, along with lodging advice and general tips for traveling with pets. 

Destinations

Dog Beach and Paw Playground at Fort De Soto State Park. In 2010, Southern Living magazine named this spot in Pinellas County on Florida’s West Coast one of the top five dog beaches in the South. You only need to set one paw onto the sugary sand to know why: It’s a gorgeous and peaceful place. The Gulf of Mexico is usually warm and calm, and dogs of all sizes love to play in the soft surf. Dogs can run on the beach and swim off-leash, then enjoy a large, adjacent fenced-in grassy dog park area. There are water fountains, waste bags and a place to wash salt out of dog fur. Admission to the park area is $5.

Dinosaur World in Plant City. Who loves dinosaurs? Dogs, that’s who. Located halfway between Tampa and Disney, Dinosaur World is a park featuring 150 giant dinosaur statues and trails winding through the lush Florida landscape. Leashed dogs are welcome on the trails, and it’s a great opportunity to snap a photo of your pooch with a giant Stegosaurus (some intrepid bloggers have gotten shots of their dogs posing inside a dinosaur’s mouth). Tickets are $14.95, dogs are free; open daily.

Dog Wood Park, Jacksonville. This 25-acre, privately owned park is heaven for dogs. It’s all off-leash and entirely fenced in, from the pond to the grassy knoll to the trails. A separate small area nearby has chairs where owners can sip coffee and chat. There are two ponds, Lake Bow Wow for the big dogs and Lake Fifi for little ones, plus doggie sand piles, shady areas and tires for dogs to climb on. Day visits are $11, including tax. Additional services, like use of the park’s indoor dog wash area, are extra.

The Fountain of Youth in St. Augustine. Spanish explorer Pedro Menendez de Aviles discovered this spring in 1565 and the Timucua Indians lived here for 4,000 years before that. You and your dog can sniff around and drink from the fountain. Tickets are $12.

Downtown Naples. This is a great place to stroll with your pet while embracing tropical Florida. Downtown Naples has lots of outdoor cafes, bars and restaurants where you can dine al fresco with your dog. Several stores – Diva Doghouse, For Footed Friends, Pucci & Catana and Fergie’s Closet Doggie Boutique – specialize in upscale pet accessories, clothing and food.

Lincoln Road, Miami Beach. Located in South Beach, this pedestrian-friendly shopping area is the place to watch all of the beautiful people and their designer dogs. Outdoor restaurants and tropical drinks abound. 

Jonathan Dickinson State Park, Hobe Sound. This sprawling park on Florida’s East Coast, north of tony Palm Beach, offers miles of trails that showcase how Florida looked before development. Dogs must be leashed. Admission is $6 per vehicle.

Panama City Beach dog playground. This Florida Panhandle spring break favorite offers 400 feet of beachfront for leashed dogs and the new Panama City Beach Conservation Park with 12 trails (dogs must be leashed there).

Miccosukee Canopy Road Greenway, Tallahassee. This park in the state’s capitol is popular with local dog owners because of its beautiful trails and secluded grassy areas.

GENERAL TIPS

While it might seem like you are in a remote area as you hike through jungle-like trails or play on deserted beaches with your dog, you’re actually never far from civilization in Florida. There’s usually a veterinarian, big-box pet store and pet-friendly hotel within a short drive. A quick Google search or sites like http://www.bringfido.com or http://www.dogfriendly.com can help locate them.

Larger theme parks such as Busch Gardens in Tampa offer kennel services; make sure to bring your pet’s vaccination record along.

Other essentials for a Florida vacation with your dog: drinking water, heartworm medicine and even sunscreen. With temperatures in the 70s and 80s in many Florida locations during the winter, dogs (and people) can easily become dehydrated. Specially formulated sunscreen for dogs isn’t a bad idea, especially if your furry friend has a short, fair coat and pink skin. 

Take shady breaks, put ice cubes in the water dish and let dogs sprawl on cool tiles. Never, ever, leave your dog in a car in Florida, even for a few minutes. Temperatures inside cars can heat up to 120 degrees and kill animals quickly.

Heartworm, a disease transmitted by mosquitoes, is endemic to Florida. Plan to visit a vet before your trip to get a heartworm test and pills to prevent infection.

Many beaches in Florida allow leashed dogs on the sand, but check first. In some places, you can receive a heavy fine. Dogs are welcome in many places at outdoor cafes and along pedestrian malls.