The east side of Washington Oaks Gardens State Park was devastated by Hurricane Matthew
The coquina rocks are still firmly in place on the beach at Washington Oaks Gardens State Park, one thing Hurricane Matthew wasn’t able to damage, but the rest of the beachside at the park didn’t fare as well.
“Specifically, a little less than half of our parking lot on the north end was undermined to the point that the concrete collapsed on itself,” Park Services Specialist Amy Biedenbach said. “The boardwalk was completely destroyed and there were pieces scattered around. We found a large piece of it in the woods on the south end of the parking lot.”
Biedenbach wasn’t at the park during the storm but she has a pretty good idea what happened, not only from the damage, but also through photos emailed to her from someone who rode out the storm, and Marineland staff who were checking on their property.
Like every other stretch of beach in Flagler, various government entities are working toward a solution.
“The long term plan for the beach has to be a coordinated effort,” Biedenbach said. “Federal, State, and county governments are working together to determine what will be done.”
The dunes were severely compromised and the vegetation was completely destroyed. The park is taking a wait-and-see approach to see which trees and scrub bush will return in the spring. Not surprisingly green saw palmettos leaves are already evident.
“A sand berm has been created to control additional erosion,” Biedenbach said. “It seems to be holding very well.”
“We will do what we can, one step at a time. That’s all we can do.” AMY BIEDENBACH, Washington Oaks Gardens State Park Park Services Specialist
With the extent of damage up and down Flagler’s coastline, it will be a while before a long-term solution is decided upon. Even the staff doesn’t know what will be done, or when. What Biedenbach said they do know, is they want to get a temporary beach access in place for residents as soon as they can.
“The damage created a safety concern, especially in the parking lot,” she said. “The game plan for us is to get the beach access open as soon as possible, and we are working on it as we speak.”
The plan is to fence off the damaged section of the parking lot and prepare the remaining section for parking. The staff is also creating a temporary beach access on the south side of the beach approach. At this point there is no completion date, though Biedenbach is optimistic that the beach might be accessible in the next month.
“I would encourage our visitors and residents to check our website, our Facebook page and call my office at any time, so I can give them updates. We are working to get it open as soon as possible for visitors to use area, and visit the rocks.”
The beach is known for its coquina rock outcropping, on the sand and under the water, depending on tides, and Biedenbach said even Matthew couldn’t budge them.
“The rocks are where they have been for thousands of years,” she said. “They are a geologic formation and they aren’t going anywhere that easily.”
Biedenbach said there may be beach cleanups scheduled once the area is reopened, but the biggest thing she wanted to ask of the community was to respect the fact that the area is closed. She also wanted the public to know that the west side of the park with the gardens is open and activities are planned.
“We don’t want cars to park outside the gate and people to walk around the gates into the closed off area. It just isn’t safe,” she said. “We will do what we can, one step at a time. That’s all we can do.”