3 min read

Bruce Beach

The ribbon-cutting for Phase 1 of the Bruce Beach Revitalization Project showcases Pensacola' history, and paves the way for the future.
Phil and Shannon Nickinson at the Bruce Beach ribbon-cutting on April 27. 2024.
Phil Nickinson and Shannon Nickinson at the Bruce Beach ribbon-cutting on April 27, 2024.
Bruce beach

I was practically born on Pensacola Bay. I was just a few months old when my parents and grandparents took me sailing. Later we’d do the same with my two younger brothers. And eventually I’d get my wife, Shannon, onto a boat. (She tells a great story about how that’s when she realized I wasn’t just some scruffy boy working in the sports department at the PNJ, but that’s another thing for another time.)

Sailing was what we did. Before I started traveling a lot for sports in the early 1990s, we spent a good chunk of our weekends on Pensacola Bay. That time on the water with my family very much made me who I am today.

Which brings us to Bruce Beach, which just saw its Phase 1 ribbon-cutting as part of a nearly $12 million revitalization project. It's moving to see a space that for much of my lifetime was unused and overgrown be brought back to life. And it is fantastic to see the care and intentionality given to honoring Bruce Beach's long history and cultural legacy as a core part of the project.

Adirondack chairs along the Bruce Beach waterfront on Pensacola Bay.
Bruce Beach brings long-missing waterfront access to the public along Pensacola Bay.

Public access to the water long has been a point of contention for Pensacola. Private marinas play an important part in Pensacola's waterfront economy, and we’re blessed to have them.

But Pensacola Bay should be accessible by everyone because it belongs to everyone. They’re not making more waterfront property these days, and that’s what makes Bruce Beach so important. The waterfront access at Bruce Beach — and the accompanying park — give the public the opportunity to explore a major part of what makes Pensacola special. And it does so in a part of town that too often doesn’t get the attention it deserves.

This project was a long time coming, kickstarted by private support and then breathed into life across multiple city administrations. Thanks to that collaboration and that investment, eventually it’ll be harder to recall a time when the public didn’t have direct access to Pensacola Bay at Bruce Beach. Standing there today, in a place that connects us to the water that is our community's lifeblood, that honors the whole history of Pensacola and all of the people who contribute to that history, I couldn't help but think: If I told someone new to town that the city's sewage treatment plant used to be across the street, they would call me crazy.

The revitalized Bruce Beach is the sort of thing you’d see in another city and say “that’s the sort of thing we should have in Pensacola.” And with Phase 1 complete, now we do.

This is the sort of thing we have in Pensacola.

I wish my grandparents could have seen it. I’m glad my children — and their children — will get to.