When we think of Florida one of the first things that pops into our heads is beaches. People come from all over the world to enjoy the sun, the soft sand, and perhaps a cold beverage on the beachfront of Florida’s 825 miles of coastline. They have been called one of Florida’s most valuable natural resources, and with good reason. There is a thriving ecosystem along Florida’s beaches, making it home to several species of birds, turtles, and other wildlife. There are over 30 rare species that call these waters and adjacent areas homes. The beaches are important not only ecologically, but also economically, being one of the primary destinations to more than 18.6 million tourists to the state per year. Tourists enjoy not only the relaxing beach life, but also boating, fishing, diving, and other sorts of activities.
It’s estimated that the total impact of beach-related tourism in Florida is approximately $55 billion dollars. Sales taxes paid by these tourists alone have generated almost a million dollars. The numbers don’t lie, and what the numbers tell us is that tourism in Florida is a massive industry. With so much money being generated, it’s important that we work to protect and restore our beach assets.
The problem is that a body of water as large and powerful as the ocean is a difficult force to combat, when it comes to erosion. Of the 825 miles of beach along Florida’s coastline, 399 are considered critically eroded. There are several state-wide programs that have been developed with coastal protection and restoration in mind. The first step is identifying those beaches that are classified as critically eroded, and the next is developing and implementing a comprehensive long-term plan for restoration and management. With these types of programs, it is estimated that $46 dollars is generated for every dollar spent on beach restoration projects. This type of return on investment suggests that protecting beaches may seem expensive at first glance, but the money eventually gets worked back into the system.
There are several types of protection that can be applied to beaches to reduce the effects of erosion. Lots of the same types of products and ideas that we utilize on smaller construction sites for stormwater management can be scaled up and used as potential solutions along the beachfront. Things like Erosion control mats, breakwater tubes, Geotextiles, fiber logs, and earth barrier walls can be used to create a beach preservation zone. Working towards a solution that helps preserve and rebuild our beaches will ensure that many generations can continue to enjoy them in the future.