PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. - As people along Ponte Vedra Beach continue rebuilding from damage caused by Hurricane Matthew, one woman warns doing so in violation of guidelines from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) could put sea turtles at risk.
Nancy Condron is the volunteer coordinator for the Mickler’s Landing Sea Turtle Patrol, which patrols around four miles of beach.
“I would say probably 50 percent of the homes have at least one violation,” Condron said.
Condron told First Coast News she began contacting DEP around November about the violations, but so far there has been no action.
A DEP representative told First Coast News they are in the process of addressing violations. They added they are following up on all of Condron's concerns and will address a violation when it is identified. However, they said some of Condron's concerns may not be violations or may not fall within the department's regulation.
The alleged violations range from fences built too long to non-native vegetation being planted on the dunes. One common issue, according to Condron, is dune walkovers that extend more than 10 feet past the vegetation.
“So they end up taking a lot of nesting space, putting a lot of posts on the beach and creating a lot of opportunities for a turtle to get stuck when it’s attempting to nest,” Condron said.
The longer walkways also create more debris when wiped out by storms, which creates additional barriers for turtles.
Condron added that homes cannot drain onto the beach and permanent irrigation systems are not allowed in the dunes.
“They’re irrigating that sod up there and in the process are irrigating these two nests on a daily basis,” Condron said of one beachfront home.
Condron encouraged her neighbors to take initiative on their own to fix what could be wrong on their property. If not, she warned, it will eventually come back around.
“People need to understand that the impact that we have on the animals is gonna impact us down the road,” she said.
**Video of sea turtles behind the anchors is credited to Becky Gainey**