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South Shore News

Port OKs plan to restore Apollo Beach Nature Park

BY D’ANN LAWRENCE WHITE
Special Correspondent

Published:   |   Updated: July 11, 2014 at 10:25 AM

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APOLLO BEACH – Residents of Apollo Beach moved another step forward in their efforts to reclaim the community’s only public beach.

At a recent public hearing, the Port Tampa Bay approved a work permit allowing the Parks, Recreation and Conservation Department to build structures to prevent erosion at the Apollo Beach Nature Preserve, 6767 Surfside Blvd.

The port also gave Hillsborough County a perpetual easement for 1,500 feet of shoreline and submerged property along Tampa Bay encompassing the park.

Over the past 20 years, erosion has stripped away the sandy beach at the county park, leaving behind a rocky berm. And for the past three-and-half years, the nonprofit Apollo Beach Waterway Improvement Group (ABWIG) has been raising funds and working with county officials to not only restore the beach but open up three silt-clogged channels off Apollo Beach to allow boat owners access to the bay.

To date, ABWIG has raised $250,000 to help fund the dredging and beach restoration project. The total cost of the project has yet to be determined, said Len Berkstresser, president of ABWIG.

“It’s been a monumental project,” he said. “It’s been almost four years since we formed ABWIG and we’ve stayed together through many ups and downs. We are dedicated to making this happen and we’re not going to quit until it does. It’s in the best interests of the community to open these channels and bring the beach back to Apollo Beach.”

As part of the beach restoration project, the county will build a series of seven rock barricades, called “revetments,” in front of the beach starting in August. The revetments will be 30- to 40- feet long and stand 6- to 8-feet tall so they will be visible even at high tide. In addition, the county will construct a “t-groin” jetty at the tip of the park. The revetments and jetty will prevent the beach from eroding.

Then, in September, the company ABWIG hires and pays will begin dredging Apollo Beach’s three channels, pumping the 11,000 cubic yards of dredged sand to the park to create a 2-acre beach. Berkstresser said that task should be completed by the end of November.

Berkstresser said seven dredging companies are bidding on the project. Bids are due at the end of July. The project also includes reconstructing upland sand dunes and populating them with native vegetation.

The Apollo Beach Nature Preserve will be closed throughout the restoration project.

ABWIG will present an overview of the project during a town hall meeting July 16 at 7 p.m. at Century 21 Beggins Enterprises, 6542 U.S. 41 N., Suite 101, Apollo Beach. Berkstresser said County Commissioner Sandy Murman will be on hand at the meeting.

D’Ann Lawrence White is a freelance writer who can be reached at dann.white3@gmail.com.

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