Shifting Sand

Barrier islands, perhaps the most transient landforms on Earth, are created, molded and destroyed by waves and ocean currents. Attracted to their scenic bays and seascapes, man has ignored the natural history of these islands, designing homes and buildings that, theoretically, are able to withstand tropical storms and hurricanes. But, while these structures might remain anchored in the bedrock of the continental shelf, the sand, roads and foliage that surround them may be swept out to sea.

Greer's Beach, on the north end of Longboat Key, has attracted naturalists, photographers and sun-bathers for decades. Its fabulous variety of shells reflects the divesity of its offshore marine life which, in turn, attracts a fascinating variety of birds, sea turtles and dolphins. Long a protected site for nesting colonies of least terns and black skimmers, this beach is regularly assaulted by storms and is especially vulnerable to changing currents since Longboat Pass is just to its north.

Significant loss of beach width has occured in recent years and the Longboat City Council is struggling with the restoration choices that they face, all of which are very expensive and none of which is likely to offer a permanent solution to the natural process of beach erosion. We humans like to think that, equipped with modern technology, we are able to control nature; but, when it comes to living on barrier islands, such conviction is pure folly.