Progress continues on Apollo Beach Waterway Improvement project

By LISA STARK

The ABWIG Board of Directors, front row, from left: Aixa Moore, Earlene Reid and Pat Austin. Back row: Steve Latchford, Len Berkstresser and Steven Alvarez. Not pictured: Melissa Nicholson. Lisa Stark photo.

The ABWIG Board of Directors, front row, from left: Aixa Moore, Earlene Reid and Pat Austin. Back row: Steve Latchford, Len Berkstresser and Steven Alvarez. Not pictured: Melissa Nicholson. Lisa Stark photo.

At long last, the Apollo Beach Nature Park beach re-nourishment and channel-dredging project has begun. After five-plus years of effort, the joint project between Hillsborough County and the Apollo Beach Waterway Improvement Group is moving forward. All of the organizers, supporters and volunteers dedicated to this effort are delighted to finally be in a position to share the latest details.

On Thursday, May 12, at 7 p.m., ABWIG will hold a town hall meeting, open to the public, to provide information and answer to questions. The meeting will be at the Century 21 Beggins Enterprises office at 6542 U.S. 41 N.

Commissioner Sandra Murman, Hillsborough County Environmental Lands Manager Ross Dickerson and County Director of Conservation and Land Management Forest Turbiville will attend, along with ABWIG President Len Berkstresser, to present details on the ongoing project.

Currently, the nature park is closed to allow heavy equipment operators to work on the site, preparing for the dredging of the North Channel.

The five-year project was first developed by local concerned citizens to tackle the problem of erosion that has taken most of the two-acre beach and clogged the three channels leading into nearby residential areas.

The ABWIG project addressed the need to dredge the channels and rebuild the beach, which will also be a boost to fishing. The new anti-erosion breakwaters built at the park will stimulate oysters, barnacles and other shellfish to flourish.

Aerial view of the site of the Apollo Beach restoration project.

Aerial view of the site of the Apollo Beach restoration project.

With channels clogged as they are, some of the 2,600 waterfront and boat-owning homeowners in Apollo Beach are finding it difficult to get their boats in and out to Tampa Bay so they can enjoy their favorite water activities.

“I’m an avid sailboater and have a circle of 250 friends who belong to TSS (Tampa Sailing Squadron) and are also into sailing,” said Berkstresser. “Members of the sailing community would like to see the return of regattas and competitive racing to Apollo Beach. This project will help make that possible.”

Once the project is finished, three channels leading to the area will deepen from 4.5- to 7.5-feet-deep at low tide, opening up access for large yachts and sailboats. Major donors to the effort include Tampa Electric Company, Mosaic Company, Symphony Isles and MiraBay homeowners associations, Century 21 Beggins and Keller Williams Realty Apollo Beach, Circles Restaurant and Land’s End Marina, and Newland Development Corporation.

Special recognition goes out to the Hillsborough Board of County Commissioners and the Hillsborough County Lands Management Department. Hillsborough County has kicked in $1.5 million to the project.

The Apollo Beach Nature Park is currently closed while heavy equipment operators work on the site.

The Apollo Beach Nature Park is currently closed while heavy equipment operators work on the site.

With a current board of seven hardworking members, as well as more than 300 volunteers who have devoted countless hours to the cause, Berkstresser hopes this will be the last time residents have to deal with the cost of dredging the area’s channels.

“Once we are done,” he said, “our hope is that the county will take over.  It has become a project too large for a novice group of volunteers to undertake in another 15-20 years.”

ABWIG still needs to raise more funds to complete the beach restoration project, and will ask for contributions at the town hall meeting. Donations can be made through the ABWIG website:  www.abwig.org. You can also send a check to ABWIG, P.O. Box 3251, Apollo Beach, FL 33572.

For more information on the Town Hall meeting, visit www.abwig.org.

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