The beach is back: Destin celebrates the completion of long-awaited beach restoration

Jennie McKeon
Mayor Sam Seevers cut the ribbon under the Jetty East pagoda to celebrate the completion of western Destin beaches' restoration. Crews recently planted sea oats to help secure the dunes and prevent future erosion.

The western Destin beach restoration project is finally complete after almost seven years.

Under the pagoda at Jetty East Condominiums, dozens gathered for the ceremonial ribbon cutting Friday morning.

Dan O’Byrne, director of the Tourist Development Council, was the first to take the podium, saying that the restoration could not have been done without the support of the community.

"It was a very significant undertaking," he said.

O'Byrne praised Mayor Sarah “Sam” Seevers and the Board of County Commissions for their support to the restoration project.

“Everything I learned, I learned from Mayor Seevers," O'Byrne said. "The TDC puts heads in beds, but the BOC really invests in being guardians to our assets."

"They can lure tourists all day long, but if we don't have a beach, we have a problem folks," Seevers added after taking the podium.

Seevers made note of "Good Morning America" naming Destin one of the 10 Most Beautiful Places in 2011 and said, "It's our responsibility to keep that up."

"The sugar-white beaches are the number one reason tourists come to our shores," said Commissioner Nathan Boyles. "Because of this restoration, we can continue to welcome tourists for years to come."

The restoration cost $7.5 million, which was funded through resort tax collections or bed taxes and a Municipal Benefit Tax Unit.

The completed project not only protects the sugar-white beaches, but also the wildlife and residents that inhabit the area. Twenty-three turtles were rescued during the process, including 11 Kemp’s Ridleys, which are endangered species.

"As beaches erode so does the protection from hurricanes and storms," Seevers said.

Over 600,000 cubic yards of sand was placed, raising the beach's elevation to over five feet and advancing the shoreline over 180-feet on average. Seevers credited Matt Trammell, of Taylor Engineering, for the project finishing ahead of time and under budget.

"This is a model project," she said.

The restoration project came about after severe erosion that undermined pools, tennis courts, parking lots and closed several properties. In fact, the pavilion they gathered in was threatened, with water rushing underneath the gazebo with each storm that rolled through. The deterioration began with Hurricane Ivan in 2004 followed by Dennis in 2005.

Trammell predicts this rebuilt beach will last seven to 10 years, although those numbers can certainly change.

"As a local and a native for Destin, it brings me a lot of satisfaction to preserve and restore the coast for future generations," he said.