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Emerald Coast Honored For Restoring Its Beaches

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Everyone knows that the Emerald Coast has great beaches, but now the area has an award to prove it.

The seven miles of nourished shoreline in western Walton County and the City of Destin won the 2008 Best Restored Beaches Award from the American Shore and Beach Preservation Association. Tracy Louthain, spokeswoman for the Walton County Tourist Development Council, said she is happy the area got the nod. "This is a huge, huge recognition," she said.

According to an ASBPA news release, communities nominated their restoration projects, and an independent panel of coastal managers and scientists chose the winners. Judging was based on three criteria - the economic and ecological benefits the beach brings to its community; the short- and long-term success of the restoration project; and the challenges each community overcame during the project.

The Destin and South Walton project, which finished in February 2007, was shut down for a period of time in May 2006 because too many sea turtles were killed. Louthain said the county did everything possible to protect the turtles. She added that the project also paid special attention to the Gulf sturgeon, a threatened species. The sturgeon's habitat is located in the project area.

The beach was one of several others that received the award, according to the news release. North Boca Raton; Ocean Isle Beach, N.C.; Olympic Sculpture Park, Seattle, Wash.; Waikiki, Hawaii; and Venice Beach, Fla., also won. The reason two other beaches in Florida also won the award is because the state has an abundance of shoreline, Louthain said.