The crude oil slick oozing across the Gulf of Mexico serves as a reminder for many off-shore drilling opponents: catastrophe is around every corner.
“I can’t say I was surprised,” said Ken Rudzki of the April Deepwater Horizon oil-rig explosion. “There was always a fear of something like that happening, with the complexity of that kind of work. It was just a matter of when, not if.”
For the past 20 years, Rudzki, along with his brothers Steve and Kevin, have been operating Juana’s Pagodas on Navarre Beach. Steve and his wife, Janet, started out just selling Jet Skis. That business blossomed into the restaurant that stands today.
“My life depends on the beauty of that beach,” he said. “It’s the whole business, the only reason we’re there. To have it destroyed by oil...who would be crazy enough to hire me in another profession?”
Following the direction of Rudzki, Mandy Evers, events coordinator for Juana’s, is once again organizing residents and business owners to participate in the national Hands Across the Sand event on June 26. The restaurant participated in the initial demonstration Feb. 13, which was spearheaded by a Walton County man, Evers said. Thousands of Floridians representing 60 towns and cities and more than 90 beaches joined hands to protest the efforts by the Florida Legislature and the U.S. Congress to lift the ban on oil drilling in the near and off shores of Florida.
“We didn’t get much participation, about 15 people, because it coincided with the Mardis Gras parade,” she said.
This time, however, Evers is certain that the demonstration will draw a crowd of more than 100.
“I think there’s a lot more publicity to the issue now, with the oil spill in the gulf,” she said. “A lot more people have formed an opinion, rather than stand on the fence about it.”The demonstration in Navarre will take place at 11 a.m. at the Navarre Pier. At noon is when participants will join hands for about 15 to 20 minutes, Evers said.