St. Joseph Peninsula (Cape San Blas), FL – The American Shore and Beach Preservation Association (ASBPA) announced today that St. Joseph Peninsula is a winner of its 2009 Best Restored Beach Award. “ASBPA created the Best Restored Beach award in 2001 as a way of highlighting the value of America’s restored beaches,” said Harry Simmons, mayor of Caswell Beach, N.C., and ASBPA president. “As Americans flock to our coastline during the upcoming beach season, most don’t even realize they may be enjoying a restored beach.”

The St. Joseph Peninsula beach restoration program began after repeat storm events eroded the natural shoreline to a point where it would not recover without a full nourishment project. Property owners lobbied County Officials to begin the process for studying the feasibility of a nourishment project of this magnitude. After three years of research, design, funding, permitting and completion, the restoration became one of the fastest projects to move through the process in the State of Florida.

“It is an incredible story on how a small group of property owners worked with the County Commission, stakeholders, and the environmental community to develop a local funding source and construct the $21 million project in such a short period of time,” said Michael Dombrowski, Project Engineer, MRD Associates. “The project will provide years of protection to the upland properties, which just a year ago a 20-year storm event would have resulted in 50 to 100 structures probably being condemned.”

“Seeing the beaches of Cape San Blas restored was a dream that many thought impossible,” said Laurel Eiler, Chairman of the Gulf County Beach Advisory Committee. “Only by working together as a community we able to turn this dream into reality. I am so proud of what we’ve achieved. Our beaches will provide protection of homes and enjoyment for countless visitors in the years to come. This award from ASBPA is a huge honor for us!”

For the last 40 years, beach restoration has been the preferred method of shore protection in coastal communities on the east, west and Gulf coasts. Beach restoration is the process of placing beach-quality sand on eroding beaches to reverse or offset the effects of erosion.

The three main reasons for restoration are:

Storm protection – a wide sandy beach helps separate storm waves from upland structures and infrastructure.

Habitat restoration – numerous species rely on wide, healthy beaches as a place to live, feed and nest.

Recreation enhancement- America’s beaches have twice as many visitors annually as all of America’s national parks combined. Every year, there are over 2 billion visitors to America’s beaches.

In 2007, beaches contributed $322 billion to the America’s economy. More importantly, for every dollar the federal government spends on beach nourishment, it gets $320 back in tax revenues. Coastal communities, along with various planning and funding partners, have restored more than 370 beaches in the United States, including such iconic coastlines as Miami Beach, Coney Island and Southern California’s Venice Beach.

Paula Pickett, Gulf County Tourism Director, explains, “In a time of economic recession, the beach is an even more desirable destination than other domestic and foreign alternatives. Our beaches are the economic engine, with over 300,000 visitors coming to Gulf County annually; we can’t afford not to maintain our most valuable asset. We are honored to be recognized for our project, and this award is for the many people who were involved in this accomplishment.”

To enter the competition, coastal communities nominated their restoration projects for consideration, and an independent panel of coastal managers and scientists selected the winners. Judging was based on three criteria: the economic and ecological benefits the beach brings to its community; the short- and long-term success of the restoration project; and the challenges each community overcame during the course of the project.

Other beaches honored this year include: South Padre Island, Texas; Marine Park – Bellingham, Wash.; Fire Island (New York); Encinitas (Pacific Station), Calif.; Lido Key, Fla.; Duval County, Fla.

Past award winners include: Panama City Beach, Fla., in 2002; San Diego Beach in 2003; Ocean City, Md., in 2004; Indian River County, Fla., in 2005; Rehoboth and Dewey Beaches in Delaware in 2006; the Chaland Headland Restoration Project in Louisiana in 2007; and Olympic Sculpture Park, Seattle, Wash. in 2008.