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Who moved the erosion-control rocks at a public beach?

Photos show fewer rocks on a public beach. Meanwhile a nearby private seawall appears to have been reinforced with rocks.

ST. AUGUSTINE BEACH, Fla. — Some hefty rocks appear to have been moved. And these aren’t just any rocks. And they didn’t go to just anywhere.

"This is the closest surf spot to my house," Nathan Edwards said. 

That spot is the public beach access point in St. Augustine Beach at the end of Pope Road, directly north of the Embassy Suites Hotel.

Large rocks and a layer of smaller rocks were placed there decades ago to help control erosion.

Edwards told First Coast News he has recently started noticing "the rocks were getting moved a little bit." But that wasn't it.

"The hole in the seawall was not as much of a hole anymore," Edwards said. 

Photos taken by residents show the public beach access area in November and then in January. More rocks are visible on the sand at the access point in November's photo compared to the what it looked like this month.

And if you look closer at the photos, you'll see the seawall at the Embassy Suites Hotel looks like it’s in rough shape in November. And it appears to have been re-enforced with rocks by January.

Credit: Walter Coker and Nathan Edwards
Private seawall next to the public beach access point in St. Augustine Beach

'It seems like someone was trying to fix their seawall, which, I get that. If you’ve got something eroding away, you don’t want it to get worse," Edwards said. "But there are appropriate avenues to go about doing it. Taking resources that are there to protect the public space isn’t the right way. The rocks are here to protect the public beach."

It seems like no one knows who moved the rocks and who reshaped the seawall.

The general manager of the hotel looked at the wall with First Coast News. He said he doesn’t know what happened. He did say some landscapers have been working on the property. 

Edwards admits that he doesn’t know who moved the rocks either.

"I didn’t see anyone out here moving rocks," Edwards noted. "But you’re mind's going to connect the dots when you see things go from a public space to a private space."

In order to work on a seawall, a state permit is required. St. Johns County spokesperson Lorena Inclan said the hotel is in the design phase to upgrade and repair the seawall, but the hotel does not have a permit to do that and has not applied for one yet.

Edwards believes someone should be accountable for moving the rocks.

"They’ve been where there were for along time or a good reason, and that’s to protect a public space," Edwards said.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection oversees this part of the beach. First Coast News reached out to the agency for comment last week and this week. 

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