Hurricane-damaged beach walkways pose hidden dangers

Repairs to Jacksonville Beach walkovers about 75% complete, city leaders say

JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. – One hundred days since Hurricane Matthew swept up Florida's east coast, residents and beachgoers expressed safety concerns Monday because the Jacksonville Beach walkways that were damaged in the storm have not yet been fixed.

Part of the Jacksonville Beach pier was ripped off and walkways leading to the beach were damaged during the Category 2 hurricane in October. 

Months later, an elderly woman was seriously injured and hospitalized Sunday after she fell off a walkway that was supposed to be closed to the public, according to lifeguards and witnesses. The incident heightened worries that repairs are still not finished. 

"I've seen a lot of people fall through the stairs. There's a guy in front of me that almost fell and got hurt," said beachgoer Reid Johnson. "There's a lot of stairs missing, a lot of people falling."

Though the damaged walkways were taped and blocked off, people keep breaking through the tape, which exposes unsuspecting beachgoers to hidden dangers. 

"They are pretty well-marked as far as being blocked off. We've had some people try to pull the wood off and the signs down. But the city is paying attention," said Jacksonville Beach City Councilman Keith Doherty.

Doherty, who owns Lynch's Irish Pub, said contractors are repairing and rebuilding the access areas and, in the meantime, city leaders are trying to keep everyone safe. 

"It is something that we definitely need to have done before springtime, before our season starts. If it's not done by then, there will be serious problems I am sure," Doherty said. 

Until then, police are trying to keep people off the broken walkways, but with vandals breaking through, it's hard to keep up. 

"I think these issues need to be addressed," said beachgoer Kaylee DeBerardine. 

City leaders told News4Jax that the walkover repairs were about 75 percent complete as of Monday, and things should be back to normal in a matter off weeks. 

"It's kind of sad that there is still some damage," said beachgoer Tori Seabrooke.

The pier is still closed, and some have estimated it may be two years until it's rebuilt and reopened. 

About the Author: