FLAGLER COUNTY, Fla. - It just takes just one small act to make a lasting impression and folks in the Flagler County area are getting the ball rolling.
"This has been something dear to my heart now for over a dozen years,” Leigh Ann Koch said.
According to Koch, the area has lost at least 20 feet of dunes since she moved to Flagler Beach 26 years ago.
Dunes that were damaged before Hurricane Matthew are now destroyed.
“Our dunes from 18th north to the Beverly Beach line were critically eroded. DOT (The Department of Transportation) came in and they partially rebuilt the dunes,” Koch said.
This forced Flagler Beach city leaders to make a decision. They needed to act instead of waiting for the DOT’s permanent replacement of planted fences to come in.
“Any vegetation that we have along here safeguards the sand. It also creates roots under the ground to hold that sand in more firmly in place,” Koch said.
Larry Newsom, the Flagler Beach city manager says his biggest concern is to not lose the roadway.
Officials say Hurricane Matthew washed away 1.3 miles of scenic road, cutting off local businesses for weeks. But vegetation to protect and preserve the dunes will help prevent washouts and safeguard the new pavement that's still under construction nearly a year later.
“If you lose a roadway, then the traffic has to detour back into the neighborhoods, and they went through 14 days on the Southside, with about 9,000 cars a day on a residential street,” Newsom said. “That's a huge impact on the quality of life. It's a big draw. I mean, the beach is the draw.”
That draw, the iconic Flagler pier, which was heavily damaged in Hurricane Matthew, lost 160 feet of structure to the storm.
“We want to get that put back together as quickly as possible,” Newsom said.
Newsom says the city is working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to decide if they can rebuild the pier as it was before or reinforce it with concrete and wood.
“We also want to go from the original 820 feet. I'd love to go about 1,30 to 1,500. Get the fisherman out there to the blue water, as they say,” Newsom said.
Newsom also put another option on the table leaving the pier as is and building a concrete one next door.
“That way you may have a pier just for events and a pier for fishing,” Newsom said. “It's a thought.”
The question is where the money's going to come from. But locals and tourists can now enjoy what’s here, after city leaders kicked off the Cheer at the Pier event in April, celebrating the reopening of Flagler pier.
And people can also enjoy the rebuilding of a new and improved Flagler Beach. Meanwhile, Koch says her group of volunteers will keep replanting the dunes.
"This is an incredible little town and everybody's all in when it comes to making life better here,” Koch said.
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