White Sands Beach Resort co-owner Jeff Geary checks on his beach access from outside his office. Equipment blocked the beach access for guests of his resort at 6504 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach. Islander Photo: Rick Catlin
So often the ads for island accommodations say, “Steps to the beach.”
But steps to the beach can be a block or more to the beach at the beachfront resorts that have renourishment equipment blocking their guests from the most direct path from their door to the shore.
Great Lakes Dredge and Dock has said it is working as fast as possible to renourish Anna Maria Island beaches and move its equipment south, but high winds from the west temporarily halted pumping operations in early January.
Unfortunately for White Sands Beach Resort co-owners Jeff Geary and Ken Geary, the project was halted directly in front of the beach access at the resort, 6504 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach. And that hurt business.
“We’re losing about $10,000 a week because guests show up, see the equipment on the beach, and go elsewhere,” Jeff Geary said.
But the Gearys were not without resources to have the equipment moved.
Manatee County Parks and Natural Resources director Charlie Hunsicker and Michelle Pfeiffer of Coastal Planning and Engineering made efforts to have Great Lakes move its equipment to another location and away from the resort.
Hunsicker wrote the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, “The owner has been highly impacted by the project and is not at all satisfied with the situation and the duration of beach closure followed by staging directly in front of his resort.”
Hunsicker suggested there were other nearby areas where the equipment could be staged to “greatly reduce the impact to the beach properties.”
With some down time because of weather, Hunsicker said the next few days would be “a great opportunity to relocate” the equipment and materials.
Hunsicker also said it’s likely the same issue “will arise from other property owners as the project moves south since the island is lined with beachfront homes and resorts.”
Pfeiffer also wrote to the Corps, suggested designating staging areas for equipment in advance of movement to reduce the impact to beach properties.
Pfeiffer and Hunsicker plan to coordinate the locations of future staging areas in advance with Great Lakes.
Jeff Geary said he understood the need for beach renourishment, he just didn’t understand why the equipment was blocking his resort.
“Unfortunately, it looks to me like it will be about 10 days before Great Lakes resumes pumping, and that means more than 10 days before we can expect the equipment to be moved,” he said Jan. 3. “I just hope Hunsicker can get some action quickly. We’re grateful for the help.”