DEP issues 2 warnings for cutting mangroves

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection issued warning letters Feb. 29 to two property owners on 28th Street in Holmes Beach for trimming mangroves without a permit.

The mangrove alteration, which topped approximately 5 feet from the 12- to 16-foot tall trees, and the possible violation of Florida law protecting the trees, occurred in an area of 9,500 square feet “within the landward extent of Grassy Point Bayou,” according to the DEP letters.

The DEP inspected the 28th Street site Feb. 15.

An inspection report states that Rod Parsons of Ripley, W.Va., and a homeowner on 28th Street, hired a Bradenton contractor to cut mangroves at 418 28th St., across the street from his property.

The DEP sent a warning letters to Parsons and another 28th Street property owner, Cedar Hames of Tierra Verde. The letters request Parsons and Hames cooperate in resolving the matter, and asks for a response “within 15 days to arrange a meeting to discuss the matter.”

At press time, according to DEP spokesperson Ana Gibbs, inspectors had spoken to both Parsons and Hames. No written response has yet been provided to the department, and the investigation is ongoing, she said.

The Florida DEP “is working with all the potential parties associated with this incident to gather the necessary information to make a final determination as to what happened in this case,” stated Gibbs in an e-mail.

The inspection report states: “It is unclear at this point if Mr. Hames was aware of what occurred at the site since his primary residence appears to be in Pinellas County.”

State law prohibits a person from altering or trimming any mangroves “within the landward extent of wetlands and other surface waters” except by permit, according to the DEP.

No permit had been obtained prior to the February inspection, according to Gibbs.

“Based on a review of the remaining unaltered mangroves,” the DEP reported the “impacted fringe was approximately 16-20-plus feet in pre-trimmed height. At the completion of the alteration, it appears the trees were reduced to a final height of approximately 5 feet.”

The DEP reports that the fringe is comprised of mostly black and white mangroves with an average diameter of 5 inches. The average fringe depth is 75 linear feet and its length is 126 linear feet, according to the DEP inspection report.

The cutting was first reported by a dog walker, Janet Fitzgerald, who routinely walks 28th Street and noticed the marked difference in the mangroves at the shoreline. She then told her findings to Holmes Beach Commissioner Jean Peelen at one of her coffee-with-commissioner events in January.

Construction trailers from a stormwater project had been parked there, she said, but once removed, she saw the extensive clearing across from the last house on the street.

Holmes Beach Police Department Lt. Dale Stephenson filed a police report Feb. 3, stating he spoke with one neighbor who said, “the new owners of 418 28th St. had a crew cut back the area.”

Stephenson referred the matter to the DEP.

Peelen pointed out this 28th Street property is near Grassy Point, the city’s 34-acre bayfront preserve. She said the mangroves are important to the Island, and “hold it together.”

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