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Local News

Bowden Remembered As "Father" Of National Seashore

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Photo via Flickr// Brent Moore
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Funeral services for J. Earle Bowden, journalist, conservationist, and historian, are set for 10:00 a.m. Saturday at Gadsden Street United Methodist Church in Pensacola. 

Bowden, the Pensacola News Journal’s Editor Emeritus, died last Sunday at the age of 86. He is renowned for his role in the establishment of Gulf Islands National Seashore, whose winding road, County Road 399,  is named J. Earle Bowden Way.

“Earle Bowden is often referred to as the ‘Father of Gulf Islands National Seashore,’” said park Superintendent Dan Brown. “Between his articles and his cartoons and just his enthusiasm, his efforts and his research, He was absolutely instrumental in making Gulf Islands National Seashore a reality.”

Eight years after Hurricane Ivan decimated the building, the Museum at Fort Pickens officially re-opened in May of 2012. Bowden was among those helping cut the ribbon.

During the ceremony, Bowden provided a brief history of how the barrier island was brought under the protection of the National Park Service. Afterward, he reflected on the early days of advocating the preservation of Santa Rosa Island and Fort Pickens.

“I saw very early on the importance of trying to save the seacoast, rather than fill it up with condominiums,” said Bowden. “This island already belonged to the public. Why not make it a national park?”

Normally, it takes about 20 years to develop a national park, from concept to reality. With Bowden’s backing, Superintendent Dan Brown said it took about six years – opening in 1971. Part of the project was getting protection for the historic structures there, such as Fort Pickens.

Without a doubt, says Brown, Gulf Islands has benefited from Bowden’s passions for conservation and history.

“So many national parks are a combination of really interesting natural and cultural resources. And that was certainly the case for Gulf Islands National Seashore,” said Brown.

At this point it’s not known if there are plans, current or future, to put up some sort of memorial to Bowden, to go with his name gracing CR 399. Brown says memorializing individuals in national parks rarely occurs and requires an act of Congress.

Visitation for PNJ Editor Emeritus J. Earle Bowden will take place from 5-7 p.m. this (Friday) evening at Harper-Morris Memorial Chapel on Airport Blvd.