The beaches in Southwest Florida attract people from around the world and a lot of locals can’t wait to get back to the sand and surf.
But, we are still a long way from getting back to that aspect of normality. Crews have been on the beaches cleaning and raking in Naples and other parts of Collier County since the Saturday after the storm.
Officials are aiming to open all county beaches in the next few weeks or possibly in a month.
There is still a lot of work to be done with piles of debris scattered around the area that needs to be picked up.
Ben Figley is the vice president of Earth Tech Enterprises and is overseeing the cleanup process, he spoke with WINK News about the situation.
“A lot of the stuff that we could see piled up over here in different areas, was strewn all over the beach, including coolers in refrigerators, and some vehicles that were pushed up into the woods,” Figley said. “And just total chaos out here total debris and devastation to our beaches.”
Figley is Collier’s main contractor tasked with restoring the beaches and picking up all the debris up and down the Collier coastline.
“We’re just doing the final sifting of the material and the final removal of piles like this over to where it can be reached by grapple trucks and get it off of the beach property,” Figley said.
Meanwhile, Andy Miller works as a manager for Collier Coastal Zone Management.
“You know we can’t see the future and we still have some work to do but I think we’re going to work to see what we can do to help get these beach ends open and I am more than anyone would love to see things pseudo back to normal,” Miller said.
And, up at Barefoot Beach, where Rick Hodges resides, things are far from normal. The beach access is wrecked and huge piles of sand lay next to the gulf.
“To say I’m heartbroken might be an understatement. In fact, I am almost on the verge of crying. Truly it’s pretty sad. It’s pretty sad,” Hodges said. “Not just for me, but the people who lost everything and the businesses and the people that lost jobs and the people who can’t come pretty sad.”
Before Ian, Hodges was on the beach five days a week for almost five to six hours a day. While his favorite place is destroyed, he’s looking for the silver lining.
“The only good thing, I saw two dolphins that’s always a blessing when I see dolphins so there’s life in the ocean the rest of here, maybe not so much,” Hodges said.
A lot of people like Hodges have a very real, emotional, and meaningful connection to the beaches in the area.