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Despite the amount of time the city of Naples has spent repairing its beach access points since the damage caused by Hurricane Ian, some of the more damaged entrances are dependent on the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. 

The city planned to repair beach access areas in two phases, the first being to ensure all are safe for public entry.  

Damage to parts of the accesses included dune vegetation, seawalls, bike racks, shower plumbing and sand. 

Having deemed 32 of the 40 accesses safe enough to open, with plans to have 37 open by Oct. 1, the city has entered phase two of the repair project—finalizing design plans with landscape architectural firm GradyMinor for 25 of the accesses still in need of repair.  

These repairs include landscape vegetation, irrigation, hardscape—benches, trash cans, bike racks, etc.—wooden walk overs, concrete walkways, the rent stations, water fountains, the permanent signage and other items between each access, city Parks, Recreation and Facilities Director Chad Merritt said. 

Humiston & Moore Engineers has been hired to evaluate all the beach ends and rank them by severity of damage. The five requiring the most restoration include North Lake Beach and Third, 14th, 15th and 16th avenues South. They require permitting through the Florida Department of Environmental Protection due to needing to rebuild seawalls. These accesses had creosote boards driven into the sand to act as seawalls, which were estimated to have been placed about 60 years ago. 

“We didn’t know that they even existed, because they were covered with sand,” city Public Works Director Bob Middleton said. “So, it was kind of an architectural find. Once these things were uncovered by the storm, it was kind of amazing.”  

Some of the beach ends with the most damage, such as Third Avenue South, need new concrete laid and need to be tied structurally to the new seawall.  

“That’s why the road at the beach end came apart. Once the surf came over the berm, it scoured out behind and got under the asphalt and peeled it all back,” Middleton said. “So, there’s some structural items that have to be designed into this that weren’t designed 60-70 years ago when these beach ends were constructed.”  

According to city code, a permit is required from the department of environmental protection to build new seawalls. The city must submit an application package and a survey of the property, along with a zoning verification letter stating the seawalls adhere to local codes and zoning. 

“Where we get into some issues are the zoning verification letters, because we don’t have any real requirements for seawalls on the beach,” city Natural Resources Manager Natalie Hardman said. 

The city’s natural resources department has been working on language to send to the department of environmental protection stating the seawalls are not contrary to their setback in zoning requirements.  

Humiston & Moore President and Principal Engineer Brett Moore said the department of environmental protection is hesitant to allow the building of new seawalls.  

“Seawalls are basically a delineation between the active beach and then the static condition upland of that, so they don’t really encourage people to go out and build a seawall out on the active beach,” he said. “But they do allow and recognize someone who has the right to protect their property. And if they have a wall, then they’re inclined to work with the property owner to allow them to update that wall for two things—for current design standards and materials, as well as to account for sea-level rise and perhaps elevate the wall.” 

Middleton anticipates the permitting to take at least a year. Then, a landscape engineer can submit design proposals for each beach end.  

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