Monday, November 19, 2007

Florida Signs Beach Protection Senate Bill 1472 into Law

Those of us who love the beach know how disappointing it can be to find fewer and fewer places where public beach access is available. Beachgoers are always in competition with beachfront developers. And the developers always seem to stay one step ahead of us.

With considerable supporting efforts from the Surfrider Foundation, Senate Bill 1472 was signed into law in November 2007 to add some additional roadblocks for developers to hurdle.

I suffered through 9 pages of the document's legalese and came away with these highlights:

  • Existing legally established public access across private property to the beach cannot be infringed by developers without comparable access being provided. One would think that this is a no-brainer, but apparently it needed to be codified into law to be more easily enforced. Note that this does not address the issue of parking. Public access just means "a path to the beach." It doesn't seem to say "and parking areas shall be provided." Nor does it provide for any new public access points. I'm not being critical, just stating the obvious.

  • Since offshore deposits of beach quality sand are limited, the bill provides that such repositories of sand be identified and managed, so there is enough to go around in beach renourishment projects.

  • Certain types of "beach armoring" are now subject to greater impediments to implementation. Specifically, "geotextile" tubes cannot just be thrown down willy-nilly. I had never heard of this type of armoring (Armoring, for those who do not know, means the construction of structures to "protect" the beaches, like seawalls, jetties, groins, etc) until the "geotubes" were installed at Upham Beach, on St. Pete Beach. They are hideously ugly and obstruct those of us who like to walk along the beach. They also screw up a good surf break and create hazardous conditions for swimmers. Photo below:

Above: Yellow geotubes installed at Upham Beach. Ugly!

For some great photos of Upham Beach and the geotubes visit my St Pete Beach website.

Read Senate Bill 1472 (opens a pdf file)
Visit the South Florida Surfrider Foundation
Read about the Bal Harbor beach access interference by a developer. Warning, contains language unsuitable for young children.

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Friday, May 11, 2007

Smoky Beaches in Florida

Late Friday morning the smoke from the wildfires in Georgia and Florida has blanketed west central Florida, blotting out the sun and creating breathing difficulties for many people. The smoke has even drifted out over the beaches. The photo is of Upham Beach, on St. Pete Beach, a little after noon, May 11th. thanks to Ryan for sending me the link to this photo, which shows a lot more smoke on the beach than the photo I originally posted. My car had a light dusting of ash this morning. I think this is the worst I've seen this area affected by wildfire smoke. Still, we are not experiencing anything like the thick, dark smoke further north. If you are vacationing on the smoky beaches, a trip further south or to the Atlantic coast might be in order, just to get some clear air.

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Thursday, March 22, 2007

The Sunset Cure

Ever had one of those days when no matter how hard you tried, you just couldn't seem to get anything accomplished? I had one of those days today, so I decided I needed to drive out to the beach to see the sunset. Upham Beach, on St. Pete Beach is the closest beach to my house, so that's where I went.

The Gulf was as calm as a lake. The breeze was strong, but it was from the east, so the beach was mostly sheltered by the island. I headed north, past the big yellow erosion control sandbags, toward Blind Pass. Blind Pass separates the island of St. Pete Beach from Treasure Island. There were two fishermen on the rock jetty on the south side of the pass, and quite a few people on the beach enjoying the shirt-sleeve weather on this warm, breezy mid-March evening. The smell of cigar smoke from a tobacco addict wafted down the beach on the breeze--a minor annoyance.

A heavy bank of grey clouds hung over the Gulf, but left enough clear sky for a nice sunset. A few sunrays were already poking through the clouds and reflecting off the water. I climbed up onto the rocks and found a nice flat granite rock to sit on.
pelican flying over the Gulf of Mexico
The tide was moving the water rapidly out from the bay to the Gulf and the strong current was plainly visible. Fishermen in two small sport-fishing boats were casting for fish just outside the pass. Pelicans circled overhead and dove repeatedly into the pass, and then drifted with the current before taking flight again.

A pair of dolphins were playing in the pass and quite unexpectedly began leaping out of the water over and over, attracting the attention of the sunset-watchers on the beach. I haven't seen dolphins jump in a long time.

sunset at Blind Pass, St. Pete Beach

The wind blew the sounds of the live music from Jimmy B's all the way to my mostly quiet spot on the jetty. But I didn't mind a little music--the sunset was serene and beautiful. As darkness approached I lay back on the flat granite and just let the wind blow over me. A crescent moon illuminated the sky, but was not bright enough to overpower the great hunter Orion, looking down from the starry sky.
St. Pete Beach at night
After a while I took a walk south toward the hotels and restaurants, now full of lights and loud music and vacationers out for a stroll or splashing in the pools. The music from the live band at Jimmy B's seemed really loud as I approach. They belted out a southern rock rendition of Suzy Q. I quickly tired of the noise and the lights and headed back toward the water.

The moon was much brighter now and fewer people were on the beach. I felt really relaxed inhaling the fresh salt air and hearing the water lapping the sand. Mission accomplished.

There are very few things that a good sunset on the Gulf won't cure.

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