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Vilano Beach is taller, wider as restoration project continues

Posted on December 8, 2020

Sand has been brought in to build up the beach at least 12 to 14 feet higher than it was.

VILANO BEACH, Fla. — The Army Corps of Engineers has been widening and restoring a three-mile stretch of Vilano Beach in St. Johns County.

In the last three months of the project, the landscape of the beach is vastly different.

People have had dinner and a show when they ate at The Reef Restaurant this week.

The project to restore this part of Vilano Beach is happening right in the back of the restaurant.

“It’s been quite fascinating to watch. Oh, it’s changed a lot,” Reef Restaurant manager Jeremy Ticehurst said. “They’re working 24-7.”

This past weekend, the beach behind the restaurant was still eroded. To get from the parking lot to the beach, patrons had to walk down a couple of flights of stairs.

Now sand has been brought in to build up the beach at least 12 to 14 feet higher than it was.

The beach and now covers those stairs and the beach is almost level now with the restaurant.

According to the Army Corps of Engineers, work will proceed along the coast 100 – 500 feet a day.

Ticehurst said, “This project has just changed everything.”

1.3 million cubic yards, or the equivalent of about 93,000 dump trucks of sand, is being dredged from the Intra-coastal Waterway near the Castillo de San Marcos. The sand is pushed into pipes that run along the beach, the sand is spit out onto the coast, and then bulldozers spread it.

“It’s quite a feat of engineering,” Ticehurst said.

The goal of the project is to restore the three-mile stretch of eroded beach to the size it was before Hurricane Matthew.

The build-up of the beach makes Ticehurst feel a little more secure about the restaurant on the beach. “I’ll take whatever they’ve got. It’s so much better than having high tide lap up against my pilings!”

The Army Corps says the project cost approximately $26 million. Property owners along the coastline agreed to be taxed extra to help pay for the sand.

The project is expected to wrap up in early 2021.

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