By Tamas Mondovics

Members of the Apollo Beach Waterway Improvement Group (ABWIG), Hillsborough County officials and members of the community gathered last month to celebrate the completion of a $1.5 million shoreline restoration project as well as the official opening of a newly restored beach to replace the one that had washed away years ago.

The event was led by Assistant County Administrator Dexter Barge and, attended by a sizable crowd of local residents, who despite the unseasonably colder temperatures came out to witness the long awaited opening ceremony.

The project itself included a 2-acre beach re-nourishment, the construction of eight erosion-control breakwaters at the Apollo Beach Nature Preserve, which involved 11,000 cubic yards of sand for the beach that was retrieved during the dredging of three nearby channels.

The project, took nearly six years from start to finish and was the result of a partnership between Hillsborough County and members of ABWIG, who have raised and contributed $226,000 toward its success.

“When it began, this project was supposed to be just a dredging of the three channels,” said ABWIG presidents Len Berkstresser, who explained that further discussion of the project revealed the opportunity to restore the beach at the Apollo Beach Nature Preserve, 6760 Surfside Blvd.

“We had a chance to bring the beach back to Apollo Beach,” he said. “So we decided that instead of giving the dredged sand away, we would use the sand to rebuild the beach. This meant that we had to get new permits, and to go back to the drawing board.”

Today, the wide, white-sand beach is promising to be a popular amenity for nearby residents and visitors.

The project includes a 50-space parking lot and the creation of several sand dunes that have been landscaped with native plants.

“I can’t thank the County’s leadership, especially Commissioner Sandy Murman, enough for their partnership and generosity on behalf of this project,”
Berkstresser said. “We couldn’t have done it without the help and support of all the County departments involved as well as the hard work of our group.”

Murman (District 1) was on hand to celebrate the special day, emphasizing the scale of the project and how proud all involved should feel about its competition.

“Every aspect of this project was monumental,” she said. “ABWIG did a fantastic job, and I personally want to applaud and thank them for what they had accomplished.”

Murman added, “The new beach is here to stay as it was built to last.”

While ABWIG is counting on the BOCC’s continued support to maintain the channels and to be prepared for the next round of dredging in 10-15 years, Berkstresser proudly concluded the celebration when he said, “Welcome to our little slice of paradise.”

For more information and to contribute to ABWIG, go to www.abwig.org or Apollo Beach Waterway Improvement Group on Facebook.