Photography by ALICE MARY HERDEN
Bayport, FL--On June 16, 2020 Hernando County Government published a notice stating that the Hernando County Department of Public Works (DPW) has begun work on the reconstruction of Bayou Drive, located near Hernando Beach, for a 90-day work period. Bayou Drive will reopen for public access on September 15, 2020.
Bayou Drive in Bayport, FL, just 2 minutes east of Pine Island Beach, is a hub for recreational users. Runners, dog walkers, bikers, kayakers, and those enjoying crabbing and fishing have traveled this road for many years. It's a beautiful area to view Florida's amazing saltwater marshes as well as wildlife and native coastal wildflowers.
However, floods and hurricanes have caused a considerable amount of pavement erosion and began to be of concern for the safety of patrons as well as the marsh ecosystem.
"Probably the influences of a number and the severity of the storms we had in recent years have paid into that. Also, a lot of people like to drive and park along the road, and I have even seen air boaters go across the road. So that disturbs the soil and the vegetation, and that weakens it and makes it more susceptible to erosion when you do have a storm. So, it's a combination of factors. That is what we are trying to repair and restore with this particular project," said Clay Black, Stormwater Engineer for the Hernando County Department of Public Works.
Clay Black stated that back in 2014 the county had engineers accessing the area to evaluate the conditions of work that needed to be done to restore the Bayou Drive erosion issue.
"Unfortunately the large box culvert (from the bridge) suddenly collapsed. So all the resources that we planned to use for the shoulder restoration we had to transfer those (funds) into repairing and replacing the failed bridge," Black said.
For the redesign of the road, Black said there will be 2 feet of paved shoulder on each side as well as paved parking areas to keep people from damaging the restored shoulder.
"Obviously, it isn't going to be as wide that two large SUVs can pass side by side, but there will be numerous areas where they can pull off the road to allow someone to pass if they are so inclined," Black explained.
The process of fixing the road is more than just filling the holes. Some factors have to be taken into account, and one is protecting the mangroves along Bayou Drive.
So what's important about the mangroves? Mangroves are a protected plant species in Florida; they are also a crucial part of the coastal ecosystems.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection describes how mangroves protect coastal uplands. Mangrove forests protect uplands from storm winds, waves, and floods. The amount of protection afforded by mangroves depends upon the width of the forest. A very narrow fringe of mangroves offers limited protection, while a wide fringe can considerably reduce wave and flood damage to landward areas by enabling overflowing water to be absorbed into the expanse of forest. Mangroves can help prevent erosion by stabilizing shorelines with their specialized root systems. Mangroves also filter water and maintain water quality and clarity. (https://floridadep.gov/rcp/rcp/content/floridas-mangroves)
Bayou Drive is more than just a road. It is a little piece of paradise for some. A place that people like to escape to; perhaps it’s a way to stay connected to 'Old Florida.'
"Once it's done, I think people will have a project that we can be proud of. The sunset viewers, the fishermen, and bird watchers are going to find this definitely improved. It's going to be safer and it's going to be protecting the environment because basically we are restoring some of the damaged areas as far as vegetation and we're going to be preventing sedimentation and erosion into the water. So I think it's a win for everything here," Black said.