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Wabasso Beach Park closed until April 30 for sand restoration

STORY BY RAY MCNULTY (Week of April 22, 2021)

Wabasso Beach Park closed this week – and will remain shut down through April 30 – to allow work crews to complete the first phase of a $14 million beach-restoration project on the island’s northern tier.

Treasure Shores Beach Park also will remain closed through the end of the month, but Indian River County spokesperson Kathleen Keenan said Monday that Golden Sands Beach Park was scheduled to temporarily reopen this week as beach repair work moves south to Wabasso Beach.

The busy-season closure of Wabasso Beach Park was initially scheduled for mid-February to allow sand to be placed northward from the park. However, the county’s Public Works Coastal Engineering team postponed the closure because high tides prevented sand trucks from accessing the beach in that area.

The first phase of the project, which began Jan. 4, must be completed by April 30, before the official start of the sea turtle nesting season.

“We need to be off the beach before peak sea turtle nesting season begins,” Keenan said. “Beach surveys for biological monitoring are being completed every morning – before any work begins on the beach – to protect nesting sea turtles and shore birds.”

When the first phase of the project is done, the county’s Fort Pierce-based contractor, Guettler Brothers Construction, will have placed more than 380,000 cubic yards of sand onto a 3.7-mile stretch from Wabasso Beach northward to the Seaview subdivision.

“The sand is being placed on the dune as well as on the berm, including in the water, resulting in a wider beach,” the county’s website stated. “Following sand replacement, native dune grasses are installed along the dune.”

The two-phase project – it was scheduled across two fiscal years to spread out the cost – became necessary after the county’s beaches and dune sustained significant erosion damage during hurricanes Matthew (2016), Irma (2017) and Dorian (2019).

The cost is being covered by nearly $6 million in Federal Emergency Management Agency hurricane-reimbursement funds and more than $8 million in local tourist taxes.

The project’s second phase, which will cover nearly 3 miles from Wabasso Beach Park south to the Turtle Trail beach access, isn’t scheduled to begin until November and be completed by April 30, 2022. That phase is currently budgeted at about $13 million.

The project was delayed for more than a year because the county had problems obtaining permission from beachfront homeowners to access the dunes on their property.