The Florida Department of Environmental Protection will hold a public meeting Tuesday to discuss and receive comments regarding recovery at T.H. Stone Memorial St. Joseph Peninsula State Park.
The meeting will be held 5:30 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. ET in Building A at the Gulf/Franklin campus of Gulf Coast State College on Garrison Ave. at U.S. 98.
It is free and open to the public and everyone is invited to attend and participate, according to a DEP release.
“We will be generous with the time,” said Daniel Alsentzer with the Office of Park Planning in the Division of Recreation and Parks.
“We will be arriving early and we will stay as long as people wish to provide comments. We will be sticking as close as we can to the time limit so that as many people who want to speak can.”
There will be three-minute limit per speaker.
Topics will include both short- and long-term plans regarding access, facilities, natural and cultural resources, practical solutions and creative opportunities, according to the release.
And, certainly, a primary topic will be what, if anything, to do to address the breach in the beach at Eagle Harbor which has linked the Gulf waters with St. Joseph Bay.
“We have considered plenty of planning options,” Alsentzer said, ranging from a ferry service, filling in the breach, armoring to keep sand in, allowing sand to accrete in and leave it as is.
“But before we got into specifics of engineering and design we wanted to receive feedback from the public. There may be a lot of local people, because of their trade, who know more about that beach and those waters than we do.”
On a Facebook post related to the breach, one which received more than 20,000 visits, the overwhelming majority of commenters urged the state to leave the breach alone.
And Alsentzer said that while exact measurements of the breach, which initially was about 300-400 yards across and estimated at 18 feet deep, have not been undertaken, the breach does appear to be filling in from accreting sand.
“The currents there do run north,” Alsentzer said, noting sand from Cape San Blas and the southern end of the peninsula tends to move north toward the peninsula’s tip.
“We watched a pretty skinny john boat turn around the other day so it is filling in,” Alsentzer said.
At this time, Alsentzer said, no long-term plans recovery plans for the park have been developed and the agency would likely have to completely overhaul the existing Unit Management Plan, which provides the guidelines for park operations.
The park remains closed.
Written comments may be submitted until Feb. 1
After receiving all public comments, the DEP will begin drafting land use and resource management plans for the park.
That process will also include public meetings for feedback on plans as they take shape, Alsentzer said.