Vero to modify new sand screens after beachgoers protest missing ocean view

Indian River County seems to have put a little bit too much sand on island beaches – or put some of it in the wrong places – in a beach renourishment project early this year that included sand being mounded up so high it covered parts of boardwalk ramps and steps in several locations.

Since the project was completed, large amounts of sand have been blowing into Sexton Plaza and Humiston Park, prompting the placement of wind screens that some beachgoers are complaining about because they block beach views.

“All that sand blew on top of Sexton Plaza and our boardwalk at Humiston Park,” said Vero Beach public works director Matthew Mitts.

Indian River County brought in some 200,000 cubic yards of sand and spread it on more than three miles of Central Beach earlier this year.

When they noticed the problem, city officials asked their county counterparts for options to hold back the windblown sand; county officials responded that the ideal solution would be to plant more vegetation on the dunes. But, they said, a quicker method would be to install a windscreen.

Early on, city work crews erected plastic silt fences on stakes between the dunes and the boardwalks, but those failed to keep the sand from covering walkways. So recently, workers zip-tied a sand fence made of polymer to the railing along 170 feet of boardwalk at Sexton Plaza, and about three weeks ago added 450 feet of the semi-opaque curtain at Humiston Park.

Some beachgoers were not happy and complained at length in a thread on the Vero Beach Neighborhood Inc. Facebook page.

“Boy what a mistake the city has made at Humiston Park Beach!” posted Janice Stewart. “The new ‘fence’ blocks the view of the ocean. Older people need to sit down to view the sea and handicapped people can not see the sea at all. This is a definite mistake, and it needs to be removed now.”

Added Monee Rich, who uses a wheelchair: “I go there to watch the ocean. It’s soothing since I can’t swim in the water or go down to the beach. To me, it’s not handicap-accessible anymore. Sure hope it’s temporary.”

But poster Andrea Gilliland defended the sand fence.

“Right, so let’s just everyone get sand blasted in the face, and the sidewalks become the dunes of Arabia,” read Gilliland’s post.

In response, Mitts said city crews will fold over the sand curtain at Humiston Park to half its current height so beachgoers will still have an ocean view.

“We’ll see if it works as effectively as the entire screen,” Mitts said. “I don’t know if it will make everyone happy. We’re doing what we can to make this facility function well.”

Mitts said the plan is to keep the curtains up “indefinitely until the sand isn’t blowing on the boardwalk anymore. It’s a minor wrinkle. We’re dealing with it.”

He said the total cost of labor and materials for both sand fences is about $2,300 – “cheaper than what it would cost to [repeatedly] shovel it off.”

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