South Walton Residents Make Compromise in Retreat Restoration Project

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Efforts to restore one beach in South Walton County is apparently taking a toll on another. The project's engineers met with Walton County officials and property owners Monday morning to address concerns.

South Walton gulf-front resident Deas Nealy didn't like what was happening in his backyard.

"We sat on this deck and watched it happen about 8-hours a day, 2-3 times an hour".

What 'happened'? Dump trucks have been hauling sand across the three mile stretch of shoreline from the Grayton Beach public access to The Retreat.

The Retreat is in the midst of a $1.5 million dollar dune restoration project but neighbors say the dump trucks are destroying their beach at the expense of the restoration.

"This is more destructive than anything I ever saw from BP" said Nealy in his frustration.

Nealy's wife Jennifer is concerned about the safety hazards as well. "I'm afraid there's been permanent damage done and I'm wondering how that's going to be addressed. Also, on a short term basis, these tire tracks are dangerous. Our dog has fallen into them and it would be very easy for a person to fall down also".

County officials, concerned residents, and representatives from The Retreat Homeowner's Association met Monday morning at the county's district office in Santa Rosa Beach. They managed to come up with an alternative solution.

"To tell you the truth, it has kind of blind-sided me, it's blind sided all of us. We didn't really think that the issues raised today would be that significant" said HOA member Dave Lovell.

The different parties have agreed to an alternative delivery method. The dump trucks will be removed from the beach by Wednesday and replaced with a land-side conveyor belt to haul sand.

"We'll do what we need to do to try to keep everyone happy here" added Lovell.

Jennifer Nealy is pleased with the outcome but not satisfied with the environmental and safety issues that still remain.

"I'm glad it's over but my concern is the permanent damage that has apparently been done to this beach. I don't know how that's going to be addressed, and if it's even ever going to be addressed".

The Retreat's restoration project should be completed sometime in March.

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