INDIAN RIVER COUNTY – Golden Sands Beach is now closed and Wabasso Beach is expected to close before the end of next week as work gets underway on rebuilding the county’s beaches.
But the two beaches’ closures came as a surprise to the community, though county staff members say they knew it was only a matter of time and location.
Commissioner Joe Flescher, who met with more than a dozen residents at Wabasso Beach Friday, said that he was aware the beaches would have to close while work is being done but did not know until after Tuesday’s board meeting that Golden Sands and Wabasso would be closed at the same time.
“It’s going to be a disruption” in recreation and daily lives, Flescher said, but only for a few months.
“We were a little hesitant,” county engineer Chris Mora said of announcing the beach closures too soon, adding that the county had been waiting for the final permit and the contract with Ranger Construction to be approved.
Mora added that county staff had discussed the closures throughout the planning process during public meetings.
“Maybe we could have been more forceful,” he said about making it clear that the beaches would be closed during the restoration project.
Area businesses and residents had expressed surprise that Golden Sands, Wabasso, Seagrape Trail and Turtle Trail beaches would be closed during the entire project. During the previous beach restoration project, work was staggered so that adjacent beaches remained open while the other was being renourished.
Mora explained the difference this go-round is the lack of time the county has to get the project done. Sand trucks are expected to start dumping tons of sand on the beaches starting Tuesday, Feb. 9.
They have until April 30 to finish the first phase of the project from the north edges of Johns Island to Golden Sands Beach.
Commissioner Flescher relayed what residents said they were concerned with when he met with them Friday morning. Those concerns ranged from the fate of the Wabasso Beach boardwalk to the impact on traffic.
Flescher said the boardwalk would not be torn up, despite what rumors have been circulating.
“It will be respected,” he said while standing on the boardwalk Friday afternoon.
Mora estimates that the number of trucks traveling over Wabasso Bridge will be spaced a minute apart. At that rate, Flescher said drivers would have enough time to pull out of their driveways and make the turns they need into area businesses.
He added that he has been in contact with the Indian River County Sheriff’s Office to be sure that deputies would be enforcing traffic laws, especially as they pertain to the trucks.
“It’s their livelihood,” Flescher said of the truck drivers, who he suspects will follow the rules to avoid receiving traffic violations.