The first phase of a multi-million dollar effort to remove asphalt and debris from Gulf Islands National Seashore is now complete, National Park Service officials announced Wednesday.
Park officials announced completion of phase one of the asphalt removal project, an effort that began at Fort Pickens in September. Approximately 400 yards of asphalt fragments and road base material were removed from over 150 acres of the Fort Pickens Area.
The Fort Pickens cleanup is part of a much larger five-year project, which includes the Fort Pickens, Santa Rosa and Perdido Key Areas of the park. Throughout each area, asphalt pieces ranging from the size of large slabs to as small as a quarter of an inch in diameter, and other road base materials will be removed.
According to officials, the project allows work to be performed only while shorebirds and sea turtles are not nesting, and it also includes replanting vegetation in areas damaged during the asphalt removal process.
Roadway debris has accumulated for more than 20 years following hurricanes and storms that destroyed and scattered portions of the park’s asphalt roads. The Beach Enhancement and Asphalt Removal project is funded as a Deepwater Horizon Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) Early Restoration project to compensate the public for the injuries to recreational use of the national seashore caused during the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
The project coincides with a multi-million dollar project to realign Fort Pickens road across the barrier island. That project is wrapping up this spring, with final striping and finishing work nearing completion on the 1.5 miles of the road that is being realigned to the north. The park service says the movement of the road away from the gulf will help reduce frequent road closures due to storm overwash.