Alive and Kickin' Part 3

By: Mike Tolbert
By: Mike Tolbert

Frederique Peret calls herself the “Dune Doctor” and she has been tasked with restoring beaches from Fort Walton Beach to Port St. Joe.

For the past five years, Frederique Peret has spent much of her time working on the beach instead of enjoying it, but don't tell her that.

“It’s hard in the summer when you see people in the water and you’re working hard and getting hot and the only thing you want is jump in the water, but again, it’s so nice to be doing what we do. I like it,” she says.

Frederique owns a company called the Dune Doctors which has been hired by the St. Joe Company to restore the beaches at Watercolor Development. Hurricane Ivan washed away much of the sand, leaving a four to five-foot cliff. Once new sand is brought in, Frederique and her team must stabilize it.

“They are first digging the holes about 18 inches apart, then they are putting a handful of gel in each hole. It’s a water retaining gel, the same thing you have in baby diapers, and it provides the plant with enough water supply to have the energy to grow their roots deep where the water is.”

Those roots will help keep the sand in place in the event of another storm along with the sand fences. The theory is anything you put in the path of the wind will help keep the wind driven sand in place. The restoration started a week after Hurricane Ivan.

“Two months later you see all the sand fences up. The boardwalks are rebuilt and we are finishing the vegetation, installing the last sea oats and other grasses and ground covers.”

The dunes still have a ways to go, but they will soon be covered with flowers and vegetation until the next time.

“You can’t fight mother nature. You can do the best you can to make it as solid as possible, but if there is another Ivan you cannot prevent the waves from taking the sand away.”

And when that time comes, this doctor plans to make her rounds.

The Dune Doctors only use natural materials to restore the beach like plants and wood. They stay away from artificial methods such as netting or mats because they could pull away even more sand if caught by the waves.


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