APOLLO BEACH — The shoreline of Apollo Beach Nature Park has been slipping away for years, but a recent decision by the Tampa Port Authority put East Hillsborough residents one step closer to reclaiming the once popular swimming spot.
At its July 15 monthly business meeting, the board approved a plan to build seven offshore breakwaters and one T-groin rock revetment along the northeast shore of the park.
The breakwaters are designed to absorb energy from incoming waves before they hit the beach, pulling sediment back into the bay, said Ross Dickerson, environmental lands manager for the Hillsborough parks department.
The breakwaters are the first in a two-part plan to reclaim some of the four acres of Apollo Beach Nature Park that have washed away over the past few years.
Once the structures are in place, the privately funded Apollo Beach Waterways Improvement Group plans to rebuild the beach using sand dredged from three clogged inlets in the South Shore area.
"We've been trying to reduce erosion for five years," Dickerson said. "Then two years ago we were approached by a group who would be dredging channels, and they were going to be having a lot of silt."
Improvement group president Len Berkstresser said he and his fellow group members were "jumping for joy" with the news that their plan was moving forward.
"This is a public-private consortium to make this a reality, the re-sculpting of the beach and a long-term solution to erosion, so we're very, very happy," he said.
Dickerson said building the breakwaters will cost the county $770,000 and shut down the park for approximately two months. The project can proceed once the Army Corps of Engineers gives its approval, which Dickerson expects in mid August.
The group's plan to dredge local channels and rebuild the beach will take another three months. Berkstresser said the group is not yet sure how much its section of the project will cost but noted that the group is currently funded entirely by private and industrial donations.
"Hopefully (the project) will bring tourism back to the park, since there will be a beach there," Dickerson said. "Apollo Beach is still free to the public, while if you want to go to E.G. Simmons Park, you have to pay to go in."
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