PORT ST LUCIE, Fla. — The property owners of the Sandpiper Bay & Resort in Port St. Lucie have been sent an official warning letter after the Florida Department of Environmental Protection started an investigation into what appeared to be the cut down of mangroves surrounding the resort's property.
WPTV reported this a few weeks ago after a local resident, Jim Dirks, alerted the Florida Department of Environment Protection about the incident.
The Sandpiper Bay & Resort used to be called Club Med until it recently came under new ownership.
According to the letter from FDEP, they found there were possible violations of Chapters 403 and 373 of Florida statutes, and found unauthorized alteration, including destruction of mangroves.
Protected mangroves cut down on Port St Lucie resort property
The letter said on May 8 that FDEP's Office of Communications received a complaint via email stating that mangroves were cut down along the eastern shoreline of the resort.
On May 10, 2023, FDEP's Southeast District Office was informed of the potential violations.
On this same day, staff in the area visited the property to document the mangrove impacts.
According to the letter, once they arrived, the property manager escorted FDEP staff to the areas of concern.
While on-site, FDEP staff noticed the mangroves were "significantly altered," and that the trimmings/branches of mangroves were piled in or placed next to dumpsters.
On May 17, 2023, FDEP conducted a follow-up inspection, where staff met with the property manager and property owner.
According to the letter, they told FDEP their reasoning for removing the mangroves was because of a "tornado that had impacted the mangroves."
However, in the letter, FDEP staff said the mangroves were observed in dumpsters, full of foliage and healthy.
FDEP staff also said the property owner and manager stated they "did not know that a permit was needed to trim/alter mangroves" or that they "were protected under Florida Statute."
According to FDEP's damage assessment, 17,789 square feet of mangroves were cut down on 3,394 feet of shoreline.
According to FDEP's website, offenders can be fined up to $100 for each tree illegally trimmed and up to $250 for each mangrove illegally altered.
The warning letter also informed the property owner and manager to arrange a meeting with the department to discuss the matter further.
The letter is the first step in the department's formal enforcement process, something Dirks, who originally reported it, was glad to hear.
"I was actually relieved. I was worried they had swept it under the rug," Dirks said. "[I am] upset still about the mangroves. Fishing there has gone to nothing. In that one little corner, there on the point, there's nothing there."
WPTV has repeatedly tried to reach the property owners for comment but has not heard back.