ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — You'll see some crews working along Gandy Beach for the next week as posts are installed to keep people from parking their cars in the mangroves amid environmental concerns.
The bollards, or wooden posts, will prevent vehicles from further damaging mangroves and help lessen the amount of litter left behind on the beaches. People are often seen camping overnight along Gandy beach, which is illegal.
The Florida Department of Transportation hopes the posts will curtail those and other illegal activities.
"We've, unfortunately, had a really bad problem with litter and people destroying the mangroves," FDOT spokesperson Kristen Carson said. "The whole point of this project is to limit where vehicles can go so they're not damaging the beach and they're not damaging the mangroves."
The 8-foot-long posts are installed 4 feet deep. FDOT estimates it will take 880 posts in total for the project. The sandy area of the beach will be closed off to vehicles.
A gate also will be installed for FDOT, plus law enforcement access for maintenance and enforcement.
"The overall area will still be open to pedestrian foot traffic, but the locations where vehicles can access will be more restricted to the area between the clear zone limits and bollards," FDOT said in an earlier statement.
"People and pedestrians can still walk there, there will be plenty of parking," Carson added.
FDOT says about 8,000 pounds of trash are left on the beach on any given day. On holidays, it's worse. On Labor Day 2021,10,000 pounds of trash were removed from the beach.
As Labor Day weekend nears, FDOT is prepared for the cleanup that comes with a busy beach weekend.
"We pick up thousands of pounds of trash," Carson said. "In fact, last year, over Labor Day, there were over 10,000 pounds of trash. So we're preparing for this upcoming weekend. We have a lot of crews that will be on standby, we have lots of trash bins out there."
As car pull in near mangroves, they're often cut, burned, or damaged, FDOT said.
To preserve the area, FDOT is spending $70,753.20 installing bollards. The project began on Aug. 20 and is expected to be completed by Labor Day. After the project is complete, maintenance contractors will also plant small mangroves in the open areas to help restore the damage done from vehicle parking.