West Destin project 'poster child' for future restoration efforts

Matt Algarin
Walking the beach near Destin on the Gulf Condominium, it's easy to see the difference in the new and old beach. While the width is not as easy to notice in some areas of the project, the height of the beach can be seen. Approximately 600,000-cubic yards of sand was added to the beach.

After years of legal wrangling, the West Destin Beach Restoration project saw its last load of sand dumped on the beaches of Holiday Isle last week.

"It looks great out there," said Jim Trifilio, beach projects manager for the Okaloosa County Tourist Development Council. "I haven't heard anybody out there say they don't like it."

Since late January, crews from Great Lakes Dredge and Docks have been dodging stormy weather and scurrying from the project’s borrow site, which is situated to the west of the project near Okaloosa Island, to the critically eroded beaches of Holiday Isle. Crews placed approximately 600,000-cubic yards of sand on the beach.

The $7.5 million project, which was funded through bed tax dollars from the TDC, placed new sand on a 1.1-mile stretch of beach that had been ravaged by storms throughout the years.

Looking at the project, there is a noticeable gap in the middle, due to a group of condominiums and single-family homeowners that didn't want to participate in the restoration project.

Crews skipped the beaches of Oceania, a group of 18 single-family homes, Holiday Isle Towers and the Martinique Condominiums, creating a roughly 2,600-foot gap.

As for the project area itself, work began at the east jetty and continued on to Destin on the Gulf Condominium before stopping and picking back up at Sandpiper Cove and wrapping up at Southbay on the Gulf.

Despite some mechanical issues and weather delaying the project slightly, the major work is complete and dredge crews have been demobilizing and moving on to their next project, Trifilio said. The project must be completed by March 15, per the contract agreement.

Mayor Sam Seevers said restoring the beaches of Destin was one of her goals when she first ran for city council more than a decade ago.

"It was on my campaign brochure," she told The Log. "This has always been on the forefront of my mind."

"It's a tremendous relief," she added. "For me, it's all about health, safety, welfare and protecting people's property and upland structures... that's my job."

Up next for the beaches is educational signage, sand fencing and vegetation, which is expected to begin at the end of the month and will include Destin and Okaloosa Island beaches.

The beaches along Holiday Isle will be monitored for years to come, Trifilio told The Log. He said the beaches on the eastern side of the city are still monitored annually, and more than 95 percent of the sand placed on those beaches still remains in the project area.

"That's part of why we are more amenable than other areas for these types of projects," he said.

After years of delays and legal challenges, Trifilio told The Log he is glad to see that the project was finally able to come to fruition.

"It's almost anti-climatic, but you forget how important these projects are for a number of reasons," he said. "I hope people go out there and look at it, then form their own opinion.

This project is going to be our poster child for future projects."