MARTIN COUNTY — Bathtub Reef Beach, a jewel of Martin County's park system that has been battered by storms in recent years, remains officially closed to the public despite tons of sand county crews dumped there last October to guard it from erosion.
Superstorm Sandy washed away most of the $25,000 emergency replenishment project. Now, with the county's beach restoration funds exhausted, there are no immediate plans for further work to reopen the park near the southern tip of Hutchinson Island, County Engineer Don Donaldson said Wednesday.
"We do hope to open it for the summer season," he said. "We know it's got to be done. It's a popular beach when it's not eroded."
For much of the past decade, however, Bathtub Beach has been raked by repeated storm surges that scoured away sand, exposed tree stumps and concrete slabs, washed out the parking lot and threatened Sailfish Point's lone road, MacArthur Boulevard.
For many years, Donaldson said, Bathtub Beach was largely self-sustaining. Beginning about five years ago, though, changing weather, wave, current and sediment patterns have forced repeated closures and attempts at restoration.
Sandy's 4-foot surges delivered the latest setback, but brought no new federal disaster aid.
Instead, Donaldson said, the county is pursuing nearly $500,000 in reimbursement for damage to the park and road, following Hurricane Isaac in August, that did qualify for federal aid. Some of that money could be applied to Bathtub Beach work in March or April, he said.
"We'll discuss that with the county commission in March," he said. Work would have to conclude before the start of turtle nesting season May 1. Meanwhile, he added, some of the beach has been naturally rebuilt by normal wave action.
The last significant attempt to stabilize the beach was a $552,500 dune restoration project in 2010, which survived for barely two years. In addition to the assaults by winds and water, shark attacks also have brought occasional closures of Bathtub Beach.