TREASURE ISLAND, Fla. — Less than two months after Hurricane Idalia washed away much of the dunes on Sunset Beach, restoration is complete and the beach is preparing to reopen.
On Wednesday, the county plans to finish posting signage and then the parking lot will be emptied, cleaned and checked to make sure there’s no damage. If all goes according to plan, Sunset Beach will formally reopen this weekend.
County staff and contractors worked six days a week on the restoration project, bringing in roughly 200 truckloads of sand each day. This dune restoration cost roughly $6 million and is part of a larger emergency shoreline stabilization project within Pinellas County.
In addition to the sand brought in, four different types of vegetation were planted in hopes of strengthening the new dunes. Much of the plantings are sea oats.
The small plantings are a huge contrast to the amount of vegetation that used to cover the dunes before Hurricane Idalia hit. The project was expedited because hurricane season is still in full swing and the dunes provide a level of protection for the homes and businesses nearby.“These dune systems play a huge role in stopping that water and storm surge from going into the neighborhood,” explained Jason Beisel with the city of Treasure Island.
While the wooden walkways that lead from the parking lot and pavilion are no longer there, temporary stakes mark the area where it’s safe to walk.
Beisel says it’s key that people do not walk on the new dunes and stay solely in the designated walking areas when entering the beach.
“If these end up getting trampled, or the vegetation ends up getting ruined, all that money goes to waste,” he said. “It's a huge investment the city, county, and everyone has made to help protect this beach.”