MARCO ISLAND — Construction and destruction were two sides of the coin for Marco Island’s Beach Advisory Committee on Thursday.
The six-member board risked a little sand in their shoes to observe firsthand changes to Marco Island’s beaches. Their field trip included Collier County’s Tigertail Beach and the shoreline north of condominium buildings 5000 and 6000 in Hideaway Beach’s gated community.
Nancy Ritchie, city environmental specialist, City Councilor Wayne Waldack and one member of the public accompanied the group.
The committee examined progress on new boardwalks at Tigertail Beach. Construction began about two weeks ago. The county is replacing five existing boardwalks and adding a sixth at the southern-most boundary of the park.
On Thursday, boardwalks No. 1 and 3 were closed for repairs. Old decking and supports have been demolished, and termite infested pilings removed. The new boardwalks will be built from the pilings up using specially treated wood to prevent new damage.
Construction will continue through the winter months, but the county hopes to have three or four boardwalks open at all times, said Ritchie. Plans to build a second restroom facility at the southern end of the parking area are still uncertain.
The committee analyzed results from tilling around Tigertail’s lagoon. Approximately one month ago, sand was turned to a depth of 30 inches exposing deeper materials to the air for drying. After tilling, the area appeared dark and muddy with an unpleasant odor. Ritchie likened it to a mudflat.
Since then, the sodden materials have dried to exhibit normal beach qualities. Committee members were pleased with its appearance and remarked on white, soft sand now present in tilled areas. The area is being raked daily to fluff and clean it.
At Hideaway Beach, the committee studied beach erosion at the community’s northern rim facing Marco River. Sand has been washing away at a rate of 7 to 14 feet per year exposing mangrove roots and destroying shoreline. Only a narrow strip approximately 4 feet wide at low tide remains.
Just three to five years ago, the beach extended 50-75 feet into the river, said George Schmidt, a committee member and Hideaway Beach resident.
For two-and-a-half years, Hideaway Beach residents have been seeking ways to renourish the area. Earlier attempts have failed. The committee observed a jetty on state property close to Collier Creek that was barely visible. An older breakwater was completely buried.
“The jetty was supposed to place sand on Hideaway Beach, but it did just the opposite,” Schmidt said.
As a short-term solution, 12,000 cubic feet of sand from the emergency dredging of Collier Creek will be added to affected areas. The deposit will satisfy regulations that require dredged sand to go to the nearest beach. Hideaway Beach qualifies, Ritchie said.
In addition, the breakwater will be moved 65-75 feet away from the creek’s mouth to widen it and slow the velocity of water running through it. The emergency dredging will provide safer access to Collier Creek and the breakwater relocation will reduce erosion of seawalls facing the creek from the opposite side of Hideaway Beach, Ritchie said.
Hideaway Beach residents are proceeding with plans to add more sand and jetties, but are awaiting state and federal permits. Hideaway Beach is a municipal service taxing unit, or MSTU, allowing residents the option of renourishing their own beach provided they pay for it.