42ºF

Beaches residents concerned spring breakers will further damage dunes

Eroded dunes along Jacksonville beaches still cause concern 6 months after Irma

JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. – Eroded dunes along the Northeast Florida shoreline remain a big concern for people who live in Jacksonville and Atlantic beaches six months after Hurricane Irma.

Beaches resident said they fear spring breakers will wreak havoc this week on the already damaged dunes.

On Monday, footsteps along the sand dunes could be seen just a couple feet away from a sign warning to keep off the dunes. 

The footprints in the sand led right up the dunes, which have been part of the city's re-nourishment project. Photos captured people lying on the dunes and walking around them, despite the warning sign reading, "KEEP OFF THE DUNES."

"It's depressing," said Jeff McConnell, who grew up in Jacksonville. "To assume that your convenience is worth the loss of a habitat and natural resources is sad."

It’s a frustrating sight for neighbors in Jacksonville Beach, who are concerned about the trampled sea oats and damaged dunes.

"You don't walk on the dunes," McConnell said.

It’s also a growing concern now that spring break is in full swing. With the warmer weather comes more visitors and more opportunities for violators. 

"A lot of erosion happened just by humans," Eric Smith said.

Smith said it's a problem that could be fixed if people were more proactive.

"Getting people into a mindset of preserving and protecting what’s special to them and enjoying what you have," he said.

The SKY4 drone flew over First Street South, where the sea oats are supposed to grow on the dunes to keep them from crumbling.

Walking on the dunes can result in a $500 citation. News4Jax obtained police reports from the Jacksonville Beach Police Department showing that people are calling in when they see violators, who were often gone by the time officers arrived.

In the meantime, the community hopes spring breakers will respect the dunes and follow the rules.

"It's an easy rule to follow -- just walking about the boardwalk to get over here," said Becky McConnell, who's upset about the dune damage. "It's beautiful. I mean, why would you want to destroy something like that?"