Posted January 23, 2018
The county closed a public beach this week so repairs could be made to dunes at the private Disney's Vero Beach Resort
At the same time, repairs to John's Island private dunes will keep another public beach closed for almost a month.
Beaches at Disney's Vero Beach Resort and at John's Island suffered erosion and damage after Hurricane Irma, said county coastal engineer James Gray. In both instances, trucks and equipment need at least 20 feet clearance to reach the private sections of the beach, he said.
Turtle Trail Beach Park, off State Road A1A, closed Jan. 12 and could be closed as long as Feb. 10, according to the county Recreation Department. Wabasso Beach, off County Road 510, closed Monday and is expected to reopen Sunday.
"We try to avoid impacting the public to the greatest extent possible," Gray said. But without the wide access, Disney or John's Island might need to cut down seagrapes or other vegetation to create a path, which would be more detrimental to the beach dunes, he said.
Closing the public beaches helps get the project done quicker and saves money, he said.
Keeping people off the beach during a replenishment project could be a matter of safety, said Florida Institute of Technology oceanography professor George A. Maul.
"There are a lot of trucks and graders and bulldozers going up and down the beaches. That could be a safety hazard," Maul said. "The trucks are big. They have tons of sand behind them, and they can't stop on a dime."
During a replenishment project, the beach is widened so wave action occurs further away, Maul said. Usually, it's a natural process that happens without human interference, he said. But hurricanes and other storms can erode the dunes, he said.
"Sometimes there is too much loss (of sand), so you have to replenish it," he said.
There could be public benefit to the private projects, Gray said.
"The whole area is getting replenished," he said.
Disney and John's Island are paying for their own projects, and any leftover sand will be used for the public beach, he said.
Using public areas for access for private projects is common, he said. Indian River County previously has worked with private communities on some beach-replenishment projects, Gray said.
"We're trying to be good stewards and good neighbors," he said.