Beach Boardwalk Will Be Replaced With Concrete

For 24 months, the battered boardwalk has been little more than an eyesore. A project to replace the popular walkway hasn't been forgotten.

"It just took time," says Sand Beach Director Bobby Weaver. "And dealing with the government, there was a lot of bureaucracy and it had to clear a lot of hurdles. Fortunately, we're at that point right now."

That "point" is presenting preliminary drawings to FEMA. The new and improved walkway will be concrete rather than wood.

Replacing eight miles of damaged boardwalk with concrete will cost about $20 million.

"They're paying for the replacement. As long as it comes within their estimate for the wood replacement, they'll allow us to go with the concrete alternative," said project engineer Bill Mitchell.

Concrete will have the obvious strength advantage when it comes to storm stability. It will also make upkeep easier.

"We'll have a nice concrete structure, which will be great for us from a maintenance standpoint because we're not having to replace timber planking that's deteriorated or damaged from a vehicle coming on them or something of that nature," said Weaver.

You may be wondering, two years after the storm, why the county hasn't removed the damaged sections of boardwalk. Weaver says the answer is simple. If the concrete walkway proved too costly, and the county had to rebuild with wood, there was no sense tearing down the structure when much of the wood and steel is still useable.

Weaver wants construction begin by the end of this year. The project will take 12 to 14 months to finish.

"I think in the end, everybody is going to be far more happy with the product we're going to have with the concrete walkway in lieu of the timber we had prior to Katrina," said Weaver.

The sand beach is 26 miles. The portion that contains boardwalk, and the future concrete walkway, is just eight miles long. There are several other areas where there's an existing sidewalk.