A Task Force formed in 1991 by a handful of concerned Belleair Beach residents to study the problem of beach erosion along the local coast line was naive ... to say the least.
Their mission seemed cut and dried ... Study the erosion problem, share the facts with other residents and elected officers, and apply for the Federal Programs that address beach renourishment. As previously demonstrated by other communities on Florida's coast, this procedure works, and a new beach was expected within 2 or 3 years at the most.
Armed with the facts, they were sure all the island residents would unite in hounding the Federal government for beach restoration funds.
But it was not to be so easy. Applying for Federal funding for beach restoration meant that certain concessions had to be made ... the bone of contention being the fact the beaches had to be made accessible to the general public, with strictly defined numbers of parking spaces and the creation of accesses to the beach every quarter mile. To many Belleair Beach residents it was unthinkable that the general public would invade what had been their private beach front kingdom.
Resistance to Beach Renourishment came from residents NOT living on the beach, but controlling more than 2/3 of the votes.
The City quickly became divided over the issue of the beach and for 7 years pro-beach people were pitted against anti-beach people. Neither side was willing to give an inch. City council meetings packed the house and often involved outlandish shouting matches and the ouster of unruly residents. The local newspapers had a heyday with Belleair Beach.
In 1993 the No-Name Storm caught everyone by surprise, causing millions of dollars in property damage, wiping out several first-floor condos and dumping salt water in nearly everyone's living room. The following week the curbs were lined with miles of sopping seawater-soaked carpeting. The pro-beachers called the storm proof of the city's need for a protective beach. The anti-beachers called the storm a fluke, a once-in-a-century event. Another flooding storm occurred in 1995 and another in 1996 ... and still many anti-beachers could not put the safety of their beachfront neighbors ahead of their concept of a private kingdom.
Throughout it all, the pro-beachers attended meetings of the National Shoreline Preservation Group, lobbied in Tallahassee, took seats on the City Council, published an informative newsletter about beach erosion called Shifting Sands, hired lawyers ... in short, never gave up.
As the erosion worsened in Belleair Beach, The Sand Key Civic Association and the City of Clearwater began their bid for beach restoration to protect the condo complexes just North of Belleair Beach.
Eventually the Belleair Beach and Sand Key renourishment groups efforts, together with Pinellas County government support, resulted in the project being accepted by the federal government and scheduled for 1998.
Perseverance - continuing to make renourishment an issue - continued for 7 years, until common sense finally prevailed in the voting majority.
Today a protective beach is being built and it's truly a victory for all who live on this barrier island.
The healing process is underway .... the town may well be whole again.