CLEARWATER — Faced with a public outcry, city leaders have decided that Clearwater Beach already has enough sand dunes and sea oats, and it really doesn't need any more.
The City Council voted Thursday night to reject a plan that would have had volunteers plant 10,000 sea oats on the beach. The idea was to create more dunes to block sand from blowing onto the BeachWalk promenade and the street.
Council members put the brakes on the project because they and beach businesses feared that the new dunes would grow too high over time, blocking views of the Gulf of Mexico.
"The best predictor of the future is the past," said Councilman Paul Gibson. "I've lived here for 13 years and I've watched these dunes grow."
Sea oats, which are protected by state law, form a foundation for sand dunes.
Parks staffers tried unsuccessfully to convince the City Council that they could keep the dunes small by routinely raking the sand around the sea oats, preventing them from spreading and forming a bigger foundation for dunes.
"We feel confident that we will be able to control the dune system's growth over time," said city landscape manager Brian Murphree.
Council members weren't convinced.
But there's still the problem of beach sand blowing onto the streets. Clearwater employees spent about 10,000 hours last year cleaning up sand, Murphree said. Staffers originally came up with the sea oat plan to save the city money.
So what now? How to stop the blowing sand?
"I'd like to do it with a physical change in BeachWalk rather than through the sand dunes," said Mayor Frank Hibbard.
He suggested redesigning the openings in BeachWalk's 30-inch-high wall, where a lot of sand blows through. He recalled that the old beachfront parking lots that were replaced by BeachWalk used to have wooden barriers in front of their entryways.
Parks director Kevin Dunbar estimated that could cost roughly $200,000.
In the end, the council told city staffers to explore other options beside sea oats, and report back to them.
Mike Brassfield can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4160.