Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Nashville families' beach plans marred by Gulf oil spill

Brent Daughrity finds himself caught between a rock and an oil spill.
The Franklin insurance agent knows his family could switch to a safe beach vacation facing the Atlantic Ocean at Hilton Head Island, S.C., as Plan B, but he isn't quite ready to jettison a long-planned trip to Destin, Fla., next week, as well as a $400 condo deposit that he'd likely lose by canceling.

"A vacation is supposed to be about memories and fun in the sun and relaxation," said Daughrity, who is excited about his 4-month-old daughter's first ocean views. "I don't want to do that over the smell of oil coming in from the Gulf."

As oil spewing from BP's Deep Horizon well in the Gulf of Mexico creeps toward and onto more of the sandy white beaches of Alabama and Florida, some Middle Tennesseans are changing course, pulling their tourism dollars out of places such as Gulf Shores, Ala., and Destin, Fla., and heading elsewhere.

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Hotels and some landlords along the Gulf Coast have reported cancellations, including from Nashville-area residents. If Destin loses Daughrity, it also loses the $5,000 he had budgeted to spend on vacation.

"We're really upset we've had to cancel, but what kind of quality vacation would that be to sit in your condo all day?" said Michael Greer, whose family vacation to Gulf Shores next week has been rebooked for Tybee Island, Ga.

The Bellevue banker, his wife and her family have been going to the same condominium in Gulf Shores for several years and were particularly looking forward to the trip this year after the stress of their home flooding here last month.

But they're breaking the tradition after hearing reports of tar balls on beaches and swimming restrictions.

Greer said he has heard that Tybee Island's beaches are grainier, the tide is stronger and the water isn't as crystal blue as Gulf Shores. Plus, the family will have to pay about $800 more for a four-bedroom beach house they've secured at the last minute.

"But we've heard you can't even sit on the beach because of the horrendous smell," Greer said, referring to Gulf Shores. "They said it's disgusting, like a gasoline or chemical smell."

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