Beach Sand Fills River, Community Rallies to Restore It | News
ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. -- A historian said Summer Haven is as Florida was.
The wooden houses from the early 1900's and the lack of condominiums are reminiscent of old Florida.
However, Summer Haven River has changed dramatically in the last three years.
People who live in the area and have fished, boated, and earned a living from the river have witnessed the river fill up with sand.
Parts of the Summer Haven River still have water in them, but there is one large area that is nothing but sand. No water is left. Sand now fills the portion of the waterway which ran near the ocean and under Highway A1A.
Sand infiltration has choked the Summer Haven waterway which runs between the ocean and the Intracoastal Waterway in southern St. Johns County.
There is a movement underway to save this river.
Linda and Jay Ginn are part of the Friends of Summer Haven River, Inc.
Their cozy house sits on the Summer Haven River, and they adore their home and their community.
However, they are starting to see the slow mudslide of sand -- as they call it -- moving toward them.
"You can see the sand heading this way," Linda Ginn said, as she pointed east.
In 2008, during Tropical Storm Fay, ocean waves washed over the dunes along the beach and into the river.
Three and a half years later, the narrow wash-over has become very wide. A long line of dunes no longer stand. They've been worn down by the waves. And the sand from the dunes and the ocean has filled the river bed with bright white sand.
"2.3 miles of public, wonderful waterway has been lost," Linda Ginn said.
From a friend's house that used to be riverfront property, the Ginns point to a woman walking on the sand, just as if it was an extension of the beach.
Docks that used to extend into the Summer Haven River now have nothing but sand under them. One dock even has beach sand on top of it.
The Ginns said the variety of wildlife has dropped dramatically around the river, and that has impacted the local fishing economy. The Ginns also said sand has washed over the oyster and clams beds.
"The oysters in this river were so good that they were commercially harvested for use in restaurants," Linda Ginn remembered.
There's concern for public safety as well. Ginn recalled a nor'easter in November which pushed ocean water over the sand -- which had been the river -- and close to A1A.
The group Friends of the Summer Haven River has been working on a plan.
"What we want to do is take this sand out of the river, and put it back to re-establish the dune system," Linda Ginn explained.
The group is in the permitting process with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and has plans to work with an engineering firm out of Jacksonville.
Ginn estimates the project will cost $2 million. Friends of the Summer Haven River are seeking private donations as well as grants and funding from government agencies dedicated to environmental restoration and protection.
Still, for some, the question lingers: if natural events caused the breach to begin with, should the river really be restored?
Jay Ginn had an answer for that. He calmly said, "What do you do if lightning strikes in the forests, you send in the firefighters. So if you have the argument about 'let nature take its course,' well, there's a cost benefit. Man and nature should work in harmony with each other, not one excluding the other. There's a proper balance."
Linda Ginn said, "The good of the river far outweighs leaving it as it is."
And it is, she said, "a tragedy.'