PANAMA CITY BEACH — A thin white rope and a few wooden posts were the only things separating beach-goers from the delicate dunes at St. Andrews State Park for several years.
After they fell a few days ago, visitors began carving their names, foot holes and messages into exposed sides — an act that can further erode the dunes.
“This contributes to erosion, which is very much a problem since (Hurricane Michael),” Parks Service Specialist Katherine Beaton said.
Beach erosion is a daily concern for the state park’s staff.
The effects of the severe erosion are obvious, from the crumbling sides of the dunes to the now almost fully exposed World War II gun turret that once was completely covered in sand.
One wooden walkover and a wooden observation point on the Gulf of Mexico side of the beach are closed because the structures no longer are safe. Hurricane Michael’s Category 5 winds eroded sand from underneath both structures, rendering them unstable. According to Beaton, plans for repairs are in the works but no construction dates have been set.
She added that the dunes and the vegetation that grows in them help prevent further erosion when they’re taken care of.
“We have animals that build their homes in the dunes,” she said. “Everyone loves the beach and it’s a good idea to work together to keep it healthy and beautiful for the future.”