TREASURE ISLAND – One of the nation’s foremost coastal geologists says the beach on Treasure Island could have a sizeable dune system in place within two to five years with no plantings necessary.
Robert Young, director of the Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines at Western Carolina University, told members of the media Feb. 21 that the city’s shoreline and businesses would be in jeopardy should a Category 3 or larger hurricane hit the area. A row of sand dunes along the beach would help to protect hotels and other businesses along Gulf Boulevard, Young said.
Young was in town at the request of Englander Fischer attorneys, which is handling a lawsuit against the city of Treasure Island by three hotel operators – David King of the Thunderbird Beach Resort, Arthur Czyszczon of the Page Terrace Beach Front Motel and Kevin McInerney of the Windjammer Resort Hotel.
The suit alleges the city is in violation of Florida Constitutional law and is destroying the native beach habitat by allowing vehicles on the beach for parking and using the beach for functions such as a beach carnival one year ago.
Young said the city’s current policy of beach raking stops dune growth and the city needs to start restricting vehicular activity in the area of the beach behind the Thunderbird and Bilmar Beach Resort.
He pointed to a Rally gas station at Gulf Boulevard and 108th Avenue that is unprotected by any beach dunes.
“This is the vulnerable part of the island,” Young said, referring to the beach behind the former Buccanneer Inn. “There is nothing in the way to slow down a storm surge.”
Young said from a hazard perspective, the topic needs to be addressed by the city.
Mayor Bob Minning said the city has made many efforts to establish a dune system.
One of those, Minning said, was an ordinance that established a 10-foot buffer around existing dunes where no raking is allowed.
“Those dunes have grown thanks to our ordinance and the no-rake zone,” said Minning.
Minning said the city in 2007-08 tried to establish a dune system but only the Bilmar Beach Resort backed it.
He also pointed to a 2009 petition circulated by the hotel operators requesting better beach maintenance and removal of nuisance trees, weeds, drifts and sand piles; and for existing sea oats to stay at their current size. He said the city complied.
“Now don’t you think that’s a bit hypocritical?” said Minning, in reference to the hotel operators and their current lawsuit.
Minning said the city would be open to sitting down and discussing a workable solution for all parties.
“However this is resolved, the city will abide by it,” said Minning. “There is nothing we would not do to protect our beach.”