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Holding back the tide makes park more family-friendly

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APOLLO BEACH - A $342,950 county project has slowed erosion of Apollo Beach and hopefully has stopped it in the area of the nature park.

Homeowners on the west side of Surfside Boulevard in Apollo Beach had to build seawalls because of tidal erosion, but that forced the waters to break harder farther north so large chunks of sand from the beach at the Apollo Beach Nature Park were constantly being swept away.

“You can’t blame the homeowners,” said Ross Dickerson, who works in the conservation section of the county’s Parks, Recreation and Conservation Department. “They’ve lost thousands of feet of beachfront.”

And they could have lost their homes too, if the heavy seawalls had not been constructed.

“It’s just the water doing what it’s always done, pulling sand from one area and taking it somewhere else. That’s why islands are always changing. Some appear, while others disappear. In Apollo Beach, the waters are just trying to reclaim area that was theirs,” he explained.

This is because so much of that area is man-made by dredging, attempts at restoration, and development, he said.

A new county-funded project started in February and just recently completed has stopped the erosion- at least for now.

The project also included beautifying the park and making it more family-friendly.

Twelve species of native vegetation have been planted, including the popular yellow sea oxeye and beach sunflowers also used heavily at E.G. Simmons Park in Ruskin.  
“More than 5,000 plants were put in for this project,” Dickerson said.


The north side of the beach has built up quite nicely but the sand has all come from the south side as it eroded.
The cost of the planting was $12,950.

Modular restrooms and water fountains were also installed, and two covered pavilions with tables, benches and barbecue grills at a cost of $60,000.

Plenty of trash barrels are spaced around the park to avoid litter, and several pathways leading through the wildflowers and brush to a sandy beach along the north side are also available.

But erosion continued to be a problem along the west side of the park, since the homeowners had built their seawalls.

“When the wind is coming from the southwest, it makes the waves hit the beach in the area just north of their seawalls and pulls all the sand away, redepositing it on the north side of the beach (facing the Tampa Electric stacks) which has built up nicely,” Dickerson said.

Project manager Herman Cook and his staff came up with a plan to hold erosion back in the worst-hit area (just north of the houses with seawalls).

Planting vegetation down the banks had been tried years ago, so county planners knew they would have to use something much stronger.

According to county spokesman John Brill, 800 feet of 36-inch boulders, called rip rock, were installed as part of  a $270,000 project referred to as “bank and shore.”

two-covered-pavilionsThe huge rocks were placed along the twenty-foot high-bluff. Also erected at the top of the bluff were wood fencing, a boardwalk area, two sets of benches and two sets of pressure-treated wooden steps with railings leading down to the beach.

“Kids were tunneling into the beach there (in the bluff area) and could have been killed,” Dickerson added. With the rocks in place, this is no longer possible, he said.

When the tide is low, people can walk out on the sand for almost 100 feet, nearly to the first navigational marker. But when high tide is high, water comes all the way up to the rocks and lashes at the beach.

No swimming is permitted at the nature park but it is open to sunbathing, children playing in the sand, dog-walking (on leashes; poop-scoop bags are even provided near the restroom area) and of course, wade-fishing.

The Apollo Beach Nature Park is at 6767 Surfside Blvd., which is at the far north end of the boulevard and may be reached by taking Apollo Beach Boulevard to the end and turning right. The sign says it is open year round from “sun up” to 8 p.m. March through November, and “sun up” to 6 p.m. from November to March.


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