ST. LUCIE COUNTY, Fla. — When Hurricane Nicole came ashore last week, it certainly left a mark on Hutchinson Island, especially at Walton Rocks Beach.
St. Lucie County officials said the storm pushed tons of sand from the shoreline to the parking lot, leaving beachgoers with nowhere to park safely.
"We appreciate everyone's patience as we work through this," St. Lucie County spokesman Erick Gill said.
Walton Rocks Beach is the county's only pet-friendly beach park where dogs come to enjoy the views and soak up the sun.
Two St. Lucie County parks remain closed following #HurricaneNicole. The North Causeway Island Park and Boat Ramp is scheduled to reopen Nov. 18. However, the boat ramp will remain closed until further notice. Walton Rocks Beach (dog beach) is expected to be closed for months. pic.twitter.com/VMXuGjzpmD— St. Lucie County (@StLucieGOV) November 15, 2022
Unfortunately, all play dates for pets have come to a pause after Nicole left the beach's parking lot impassible.
Video recorded by a drone showed the extent of the damage, which left vehicles stuck and had to be towed away.
"The ocean crested over the sand dunes, pushing more sand into the parking lot, several feet of sand," Gill said. "It was up to really the door handle on an SUV that was parked there overnight."
Gill said it will take a few months before the park reopens.
In order to start repairs, the county must first get approval from state and federal agencies.
"Our coastal engineers are working with Florida Power and Light — as well as our state partners — to get the permits we need and the right away to go in there and try and put that sand back on the beach and open that parking lot back up," Gill said.
In the meantime, work is already being done to see if there is an opportunity to designate another beach for people's furry friends to enjoy.
"If we do another temporary pet-friendly beach, we need to make sure that the use is compatible with the other activities taking place at that location, and that we have enough ample parking," Gill said.
In addition to Walton Rocks Beach, the North Causeway Island Park also sustained damage from Nicole, but county officials said it will reopen Friday. However, the boat ramp there will remain closed to undergo a major expansion project, which officials said will take about a year to complete.