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Longboat Key Sunday, Dec. 27, 2009 8 years ago

TOP STORY, April: North Shore beach access closed

by: Kurt Schultheis Senior Editor

Throughout the holiday week, will be counting down the top 12 stories of 2009 (one from each month) from our Longboat, East County and Sarasota Observers. Check back each day fro a reprinting — and any relevant updates — of the biggest news items of the year.


The Longboat Key Town Commission held a special meeting Thursday, March 5 to officially close down the town’s most northern beach access, 100 North Shore Road, because massive beach erosion has made it unsafe for visitors and residents.

The situation is so bad that during high tide, what little beach is left in the area is overtaken by the Gulf of Mexico, eliminating the formerly connected beach that led to Greer Island, also known as Beer Can Island.

Not wanting visitors and residents to use the Longbeach seawall on private property or the wall of rocks that protect the shoreline to get from one part of the beach to another, Town Manager Bruce St. Denis had the beach closed down days before the special meeting.

“The situation was too dangerous,” St. Denis said. “I had to take action.”

The 120,000 cubic yards of sand that was placed near the beach access two years ago had eroded so quickly that the Longboat Key Public Works Department staff built a wooden bridge in November to help people navigate the beach safely.

That bridge is already rendered useless.

“The area is very dynamic, and (we are) losing sand at a very accelerated rate,” said Public Works Director Juan Florensa.

The north end of the island loses sand rapidly because the shape of the beach sits in a series of inlets, creating irregular wave activity that takes the sand and dumps it into Longboat Pass or on top of Greer Island.

The town has invited Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) officials to visit the area this week so state officials can examine the situation.

FDEP has already suggested two options to help hold Longboat’s beach.

One option is a groin field of two to three groins and another groin to be placed on the northern tip of the island to prevent Greer Island and other accreted sand from flowing into Longboat Pass.

FDEP’s other suggestion is to build a breakwater, an offshore structure that protects a harbor from wave energy and deflects strong currents. The breakwater could be anchored parallel to the shore to prevent waves from eroding the sand near the beach-access point.

Taking wave data that the town has already collected, along with FDEP’s suggestions, town staff has begun modeling a breakwater solution that will be presented to FDEP this summer.

“We notified the state of our emergency situation and have asked them to expedite applications as they are submitted,” St. Denis said.

In the meantime, the town may receive some interim relief for the area in the form of dredged sand from Longboat Pass.

Florensa said the West Coast Inland Navigational District will be dredging portions of Longboat Pass later this year as part of its continuous, navigational-district maintenance plan.

If the sand dredged from the pass meets beach-quality requirements, the town may ask for permission to acquire some of it for placement on the north end.

St. Denis said he is also confident the town will be receiving federal reimbursement monies from sand loss that occurred when three storms churned through the Gulf last summer, which caused massive erosion on the north end.

“We can put sand down in that area and other hot spots before a structural solution is approved,” St. Denis said.

Contact Kurt Schultheis at [email protected]

Public Works Director Juan Florensa is urging town residents and visitors who frequent the North Shore Road beach access to move south to the Broadway beach access, 100 Broadway.

“There is a lot of beach and a lot of parking in that area,” Florensa said.

The North Shore Road beach access was closed because of a loss of sand in the area.

“We also don’t want to encourage people to go through private property or the nearby sea oats to access the beach closer to North Shore Road,” Florensa said.

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