Expect new no-parking orders or concrete barriers along stretches of State Road A1A to start going up next week, along with silt mounds, or mini-dunes, that will be put down in areas that have experienced washouts during heavy rains. The twin efforts will be a temporary attempt to stop washouts that continue to damage the road or the rock revetments below the road, causing road closures, detours, and hassles for drivers, walkers and the city commission.
The Flagler Beach City Commission discussed those emergency alternatives at the end of an interminable meeting late Thursday night, after hearing the proposal for silt mounds from Ron Meade, the operations engineer who oversees construction and maintenance for the Flagler and Volusia district of the state Department of Transportation. A1A is a state road, so it falls under the state’s jurisdiction. The department has tried to be responsive to the city’s needs as the emergency repairs to A1A in the wake of Hurricane Matthew have posed a series of serious challenges to the city and its visitors.
“We’ve got a plan to try to rebuild the dune system that we lost in Matthew, and when I say rebuild it’s truly on the shoulder,” Meade said. “We’re not going to get on the beach really, just restore it a little bit, maybe a foot or two of fill so when the water runs off it’ll have a chance to change up and perk before it just finds a low spot in the dune and takes the shoulder with it. So we’re going to put some fill down, we’re going to put some silt barrier down and attempt to give that water a chance to seep in.”
That would be a temporary solution for a year and a half until the state transportation department rebuilds State Road A1A in earnest, what’s expected to be a $40 million project that will end with rebuilt dunes with anchoring vegetation, a new road and sea walls in parts, albeit buried sea walls. (See details of that project here.)
The solution Meade proposed is not really up to the city to approve or not approve: it’s already in the works, and will take shape starting next week. The first section affected will be from 20th Street North, on the north side of the town, near Turtle Shack and Java Joint. The department will also work on 12th Street South, across from the Topaz, the section that experienced a serious washout last week. “Hopefully these efforts will gives us a little more reliable system,” Meade said. “We know it’s temporary. When we decided to go into that direction we knew it was going to be susceptible to some washouts, and man, that one storm we had a week ago sure showed us that.” The direction he was referring to is the emergency-repair roadwork completed in November, exactly a month after the hurricane passed by.
But city commissioners were skeptical about the effectiveness of the proposed solution, particularly when they heard the word “silt.” At first they thought Meade had said “sod.” He had not.
“The silt fence, it’s a barrier that will hopefully slow the water down,” Meade said.
“No, it doesn’t,” Commissioner Kim Carney said.
“Do you live here?” Commissioner Joy McGrew asked him. He does not.
“Then you should know that if you don’t put something down that’s got some root system to it, I don’t care, silt, the water is going to go through it, it’s going to find an air pocket or a footstep,” McGrew said. She had herself led a volunteer effort to anchor dunes with plants in spring. “No disrespect, please. You’re not doing us any favors by just putting down silt netting on top of it. Put down a couple of rows of sod so that the water has now something to go to that will grow. Silt doesn’t grow, last time I checked.”
“We put down sod in a lot of these areas,” Meade said, referring to an attempt by the department to stop sand from blowing onto the road. “We put that sod down to try to stop it. It stayed for a while, and then it died, for the most part it died.”
“It’s almost like I want to tell you don’t do it if you’re not going to do something,” McGrew said. “You just proved that sod worked until it died. So why would you not think about that again?”
City Manager Larry Newsom proposed issuing a no-parking order for the dune areas under discussion by putting something along the road to prevent parking, possibly concrete barriers. Otherwise, “all they’re going to do is just continuously beat those dunes up,” he said of walkers crossing over dunes.
McGrew said concrete barriers are the better solution to “eliminate a lot of our headaches,” otherwise, without barriers, the city will not be able to enforce any no-parking order: signs alone won’t be enforceable.
There’s more urgency for a no-parking system with July 4 coming up, Mayor Linda Provencher said. “Even if it’s ugly, even if it’s orange fencing like they have in Beverly Beach, I don’t care,” Provencher said. “And I don’t care about your view because either you want your dune or not. And we’ve got to do something.”
The mayor stressed that parking restrictions will be temporary, and would be nothing new since Hurricane Matthew. “Have you been down the south end lately? There’s tons of no-parking signs right now. How do I know? Because there’s pictures of our guys installing them—with their trucks on the dune,” Provencher said wryly, to uncomfortable laughter from commissioners.
Meade will be meeting with Newsom next week to work out the details.
“We’re not going to let A1A go away from us, we’re keeping a good close eye on it,” Meade said. Unrelentingly rising seas, of course, have different plans.