By Terry Potter
A group of citizens here is pushing its local government hard to buck the global trend of dredging and dumping sand on its beaches.
Flagler Beach is a small Atlantic coast city of about 5,500 residents that swells to tens of thousands on holidays. The county’s economy is primarily dependent on tourism due to its 19 miles of natural, attractive beach. The county’s unemployment was 14.7 percent last month, second-highest in the state.
SaveFlaglersBeach.com, Inc. was formed as a non-profit corporation earlier this year after years of fighting by its founders to protect Flagler County’s eroding dunes and beaches.
The mission statement is simple: “to make Flagler Beach the first coastal community in the United States to restore and retain a permanent, naturally sustainable dune and beach system.”
In 2006, the Florida Department of Transportation built a 150-foot emergency seawall just north of South 13th Street, at a cost of $1 million. DOT plans to extend that seawall to 600 feet, past S. 14th Street, at an additional cost of $6.2 million. This would all been in addition to 1.8 miles of rock revetment installed years before for around $8 million, which was supposed to have fixed the problem in the first place.
Much of the rock revetment has been washed away, leaving ugly black plastic weed screen exposed. The seawall has accelerated the erosion, again threatening to undermine the designated Scenic and Historic Coastal Byway A1A. The beach has lost a lot of sand in that area, and there is very little dry sand at high tide.
SaveFlaglersBeach.com agrees with many authorities that seawalls and other forms of coastal armoring do not protect the beach; they provide a false sense of protection for the land and structures behind them. Armoring is a death sentence to a beach. And dredging is a band-aid that just washes away.
After years of research, the group has identified one technology that will achieve its mission, and also place Flagler county on the world map as an example of how beach erosion can be reversed naturally – and at a fraction of the cost of traditional armoring and “renourishment” methods.
If we don’t protect the beach we love, our story will be that of a seaside community that lost its natural resource, its sea turtle habitat, its recreation, and ultimately its quality of life.
Our real estate values, our business community, our quaint ‘Old Florida’ charm that tourists flock to visit, will be no more.
Terry Potter is a spokesman for SaveFlaglersBeach.com.
SaveFlaglersBeach.com is hosting a public seminar to educate residents and local officials about their proposed solution with Dick Holmberg of Holmberg Technologies Inc. The meeting will be held on Thursday, Sept. 15, at 6p.m. at the Flagler County Association of Realtors building, 4101 East Moody Blvd, Bunnell. The city of Flagler Beach is holding a public “Town Hall” meeting on the subject on Tuesday, Sept. 20, at 5:30 p.m. at the Disabled American veterans building, 208 S. 6th St, Flagler Beach. For additional information contact Patty Brown at (386) 439-3726 or visit www.saveflaglersbeach.com