ST. PETERSBURG — Pockets of open space dot Gandy Beach. Each one is an opening to the blue waters of Tampa Bay, canopied by billowing mangroves. It’s picturesque — just don’t look too close.
If you did, then you might see the beer can peeking out of the sand like a burrowed crab. Or the plastic bag swaying from a mangrove branch.
The empty gallon of water sitting squarely near the shore? Well, that’s a little harder to miss.
But the Florida Department of Transportation is hoping a new project will stop people from littering and parking in the mangroves at Gandy Beach in St. Petersburg. The agency is spending about $70,000 to install bollards — large wooden posts — in front of mangroves lining the beach, Kristen Carson, a spokesperson for the department, said in an email Wednesday.
The bollards are designed to prevent cars from damaging mangroves, halt overnight parking and curb littering.
Gandy Beach averages about 8,000 pounds of trash a day that’s picked up as both litter and from trash cans, according to Carson.
Dana Paganelli, a frequent visitor to the beach, says she’s happy about the bollards. She floated near the shore Wednesday in a pastel-colored pool float. Usually, she said, she’ll bring her own bag and fill it with the garbage she finds at the beach and throw it out later.
“It’s definitely noticeable, people trash the area,” Paganelli said. “So I think it’s a good thing for the environment.”
The Florida Department of Transportation began installing the posts last week, and the entire project will wrap up in about two weeks. Carson said the agency expects to install about 880 posts.
After the bollards are installed and cars can no longer reach the shore, the agency’s maintenance contractor will begin planting small mangroves in the open areas where the plant could not grow previously due to car traffic.
The open sand area will be closed off to cars by the end of the project. According to Carson, law enforcement has had issues with illegal activity, and maintenance has struggled to keep the area clean. A gate will allow access only to maintenance and law enforcement, Carson said. However, the area will still be open to foot traffic, she said.
“The overall area will still be open to pedestrian foot traffic, but the locations where the vehicles can access will be more restricted to the area between the clear zone limits and bollards,” Carson said in the email.
Keep up with Tampa Bay’s top headlines
Subscribe to our free DayStarter newsletter
You’re all signed up!
Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.Explore all your options
On Wednesday afternoon, Josh Rasmussen packed up his beach gear — a foldable wooden table, a small fan and a radio — and took it back to his car parked behind the newly installed posts.
Rasmussen said he visits Gandy Beach about once a week and would normally park near the shore. Now that bollards are installed, he said the only inconvenience is that he’s a bit farther from his van that has running water and a cooktop. But really, it’s no big deal, he says.
“When I first saw it was coming up like last week, I was like, ‘That sucks,’” Rasmussen said. “But then I came here today, and it was just very nice ... it was just private.”