Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Expert critical of Treasure Island's beach driving rules

TREASURE ISLAND — Coastal management expert Robert Young got a close look Friday at this city's wide sandy beaches — and didn't like what he saw.

"It is being too heavily utilized with parking and driving," he said, looking at the numerous tire tracks on the beachfront south of the Thunderbird Beach Resort, where 14 carnivals and festivals are held. "This is really unusual activity for a beach."

Yet as he looked northward, where undulating dunes and sea oats continue to grow, he got excited.

"There are not many places in Florida where dunes are self-establishing," Young said. "This is amazing."

Young, a professor of coastal geology at Western Carolina University and director of the Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines, was paid to examine the island's shoreline by three hoteliers who are suing the city. The hotel owners argue that continued use of the beachfront for festivals and the parking and driving they create is destroying the natural beauty of the area and hurting their businesses.

Young, who says he tries to stay out of the local politics of beach management, says Treasure Island, with its wide beachfront, is in a unique situation. It can promote dune growth, which acts as stabilizers, erosion protection and storm buffers.

Million of dollars in federal, state and county funds have been used over the years for renourishment projects with the main goal of storm protection to save homes and properties, he said.

"Yet here," Young said, pointing to the flat beach area without dunes, "they are preventing the primary benefits from happening. They are defeating the purpose of the public expenditures."

The Thunderbird Beach Resort, Windjammer Resort Motel and the Page Terrace Motel have filed a motion for summary judgment in the lawsuit, which is expected to be heard April 16.

They also have challenged the Department of Environmental Protection's permitting of city beach events. The yearly Rotary Club festival, normally held in March on the beachfront, has been moved to a city park.

City officials contend no proof has been presented of beach damage as a result of festivals.

"The city has not received one iota of evidence of any harm to the beach," said city attorney Maura Kiefer. "The city is always concerned with the conservation and preservation of its beach."

Mayor Robert Minning, former head of the city's beach stewardship committee, said that in 2009 the city received a petition signed by hotel owners — including the three involved in the current lawsuit — wanting the city to rake the entire beach and keep the current dunes from growing.

"If these folks had had their way then, the dunes we now have wouldn't have happened," Minning said.

Hotel owners were surveyed by the city about whether they wanted an extensive dune system and the only one to agree was the Bilmar Hotel, he said.

The city did establish a 10- to 15-foot no-rake zone around existing dunes and is working to establish a corridor that would restrict traffic on the beach to a smaller area, Minning said.

Young believes there is a way to use the beach for recreation purposes and still have a vibrant dune system.

"But not at the level they are using it now," he said.

Expert critical of Treasure Island's beach driving rules 02/21/14 [Last modified: Friday, February 21, 2014 9:58pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Philippines forces make gains in city under siege by ISIS-linked militants

    MARAWI, Philippines — Philippine forces say they now control most of a southern city where militants linked to the Islamic State group launched a bloody siege nearly a week ago.

  2. Rays exhausted but happy after 15-inning win over Twins (w/video)

    The Heater

    MINNEAPOLIS — Before the Rays eventually won Sunday's 6½-hour, 15-inning marathon against the Twins 8-6, they did plenty to lose it. And we need to get that out of the way first.

    The Rays’ Evan Longoria enjoys a laugh after scoring, barely, to tie it in the ninth on Steven Souza Jr.’s two-out single.
  3. Tom Jones' Two Cents: ABC's Indy 500 coverage is stellar again

    TV and Radio

    Times columnist Tom Jones looks back at the best and worst from a weekend of televised sports.

    Best coverage

    Takuma Sato left, celebrates after winning the Indianapolis 500 as Helio Castroneves is a little late passing him. ABC’s coverage of the race is stellar throughout, with plenty of extras but no fake drama.
  4. Takuma Sato surprise winner of wreck-filled Indy 500

    Auto racing

    INDIANAPOLIS — Takuma Sato, a journeyman driver, became the first Japanese winner of the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday when he held off three-time champion Helio Castroneves in a 230-mph wheel-rubbing duel to the finish.

    Scott Dixon’s car goes over the top of Jay Howard, soaring so high that Helio Castroneves drove under it while it was airborne. Stunningly, there were no serious injuries.
  5. South Korea military: North Korea fires unidentified projectile


    SEOUL — North Korea launched a ballistic missile early today that flew 280 miles and landed in Japan's exclusive economic zone, the South Korean military and the Japanese government said.

    S. Korean President Moon Jae-in is assessing the launch.