The Challenges of Constriction, COVID & Red Tide
Things are challenging on Pinellas County beaches! 2021 started out great with St. Pete Beach being named the #1 Beach in the USA by Trip Advisor’s travelers and Pinellas County having four of the top 20 beaches in the country – wow!
As we know by now, last year became a challenge early on. SPB began a complete renovation of the library that required moving the whole operation to a temporary facility several blocks away, gutting the building, removing the roof, rebuilding the complete interior and then moving back in – all executed during a pandemic. Throughout that time Gulf Boulevard, the main road through all of the beach communities, was under construction for various projects involving waste water, storm drainage, utility undergrounding and fiber optic cable installation. The normally heavy traffic was even more challenging.
Then the pandemic. The county beaches were closed for nearly two months – bars and restaurants were closed, our tourist industry ground to a halt. Not fun, but things were improving as we learned to social distance and wear masks, protecting ourselves and our neighbors from further spread.
If that wasn’t enough red tide arrived with a vengeance! The seasonal bloom of this toxic algae was supercharged this year, devastating Tampa Bay, the intracoastal and the Gulf beaches. The county stepped in with a huge effort working with the cities to remove dead fish from the waters and disposing of the fish the communities collected from the beaches – 1800+ tons in all – a truly effective partnership. Job well done.
We are now facing a surge from the Delta variant. I’m not sure what that little bump in the road will require, but after 2020 I’m sure we’ll deal with it. All in all, tourism is back, the beaches are booming, the hotels are busy and the restaurants are looking for staff – things are looking up!
One thing I’ve learned is that we must remain tolerant, kind and patient. Sometimes even paradise encounters a few bumps in the road…
Mayor – St. Pete Beach