FDOT adds wood posts along Gandy Beach to discourage parking in mangroves

2022-09-02 22:40:02 By : Ms. Chole Xu

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — FDOT crews are hard at work in Pinellas County making changes to Gandy Beach, the bayfront area along Gandy Boulevard in St. Petersburg just before the bridge into Tampa.

It’s a hot spot for weekend gatherings, but FDOT leaders who are responsible for maintaining the area say beachgoers are wreaking havoc on the environment.

So, FDOT crews are now drilling into the sand and putting up 880 wood bollards, or posts, to prevent drivers from parking on and in the mangroves, and prevent overnight camping and other illegal activities.

The $70,753.20 project also includes adding a gate in the open sand area closest to the bridge. This will prevent cars from pulling up on the sand but will still allow people to walk up.

FDOT said drivers will be able to park along Gandy Boulevard on the other side of the posts and gate and will be able to access the waterfront by walking.

Dawn Christopher and Mark Gilleski visit Gandy Beach frequently. They said on a weekday, the area is paradise, but by the weekend, everything changes.

“People just come down here, and they’re cutting up the trees so they can park and party. There’s trash all over the place,” explained Christopher as she pointed out places on the mangroves where branches were clearly severed off.

“People destroy it on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, and then they try to clean it up Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, and then they do it all over again,” Gilleski added.

FDOT told ABC Action News that they’d had reports of people cutting the mangroves, burning them, and even parking under them and camping out overnight. Those are all things they hope the new posts will prevent.

“We’re not taking any of the waterway activities away. We just want people to be respectful of the environment out there,” explained FDOT spokesperson Kris Carson. “The parking is still there. What we’re taking away essentially is where people can drive their cars up to the mangrove area which is going to protect people from damaging them.”

Carson added that FDOT is also planning to put in more trash cans and signage about littering.

“Last Labor Day weekend, we picked up over 10,000 pounds of trash. Every weekend it’s between 5,000 and 8,000 pounds of trash,” she elaborated.

Gilleski supports the project and said he hopes it will keep Gandy Beach clean, safe, and protected.

“Maybe this will teach people a little bit more respect for what’s here and what is offered for us for free. It’s still free. Go to the beach. You’ll pay $20 in 3 hours just to park. Respect where you live and love where you live,” he said.

The work on the posts is expected to wrap up within a few days. From there, FDOT will plant new mangroves, which they hope will have a better chance to grow and flourish.