By Mitch Traphagen
APOLLO BEACH — The ABWIG (Apollo Beach Waterway Improvement Group) open house on May 21 was a full house as organizers provided an update on the group’s financial status and hosted Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandra Murman and Mohamed Dabees from Humiston & Moore Engineers of Naples, Florida. Also in attendance were representatives from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission and Ross Dickerson of the Hillsborough County Parks, Recreation and Conservation Department.
Commissioner Murman said, “I think it’s important to do as much as we can to improve the use of our waterways. We’ve got a lot more to do up and down the shoreline.”
The commissioner referenced the recently approved $800,000 county project to restore the beach at the Apollo Beach Nature Park as well as future projects to protect the beach at Ruskin’s Simmons Park, along with a possible high speed ferry that would run from South County to MacDill.
“There is so much potential for this area,” she said. “The [future] mall, the new hospital, job opportunities.”
Mohamed Dabees discussed previous projects his company has handled that were similar to the restoration and protection of the Apollo Beach Nature Park, including restoration projects at Honeymoon Island, North Captiva Island, Naples and Marco Island. His presentation included some historic photographs of the north end of Apollo Beach, along with the expected results of the restoration project.
ABWIG President Len Berkstresser praised the commissioner by saying, “Sandra Murman has been a delight to work with.”
Berkstresser went on to update the attendees on the progress of fundraising efforts to dredge the canals in the community. As of last week, ABWIG had reached nearly 86 percent of their $250,000 goal for dredging, which will include the north, south and main channels into the community.
Both TECO and Mosaic have donated $50,000 to the organization, Symphony Isles donated $30,000, Newland Communities / Mira Bay donated $25,000, Mira Bay Mariners donated $15,000, Century 21 Beggins Realty donated $10,000 and Land’s End Marina and Circles Restaurant each donated $2,500.
Most of the remaining funds have come from area boating organizations and from fundraising events organized by ABWIG. Permits for dredging have already been obtained by the organization.
In working with both the county and the engineering firm responsible for the nature park restoration, Berkstresser maintained that dredging alone isn’t enough, and that a long-term solution is needed. During his presentation, Dabees detailed the longer term solution provided by his firm, with some projects going back more than a decade that are still considered successful today.
Berkstresser also pointed out that although ABWIG is nearing its goal, that goal has not yet been reached and there is still work to do.
“This is real, we’re making this happen and won’t stop until we’re done,” he said.
The next ABWIG open house meeting is expected to be held later this summer.
For more information or to donate, visit www.abwig.org.