Thursday, October 28, 2021

High Tide at Tigertail Lagoon – Is This the New Normal?

Low tide. | Photos by Jim Robellard

It wasn’t too long ago that discussion about Tigertail Lagoon centered around proposed improvements for the county-owned Tigertail Beach Park. Collier County wanted to attract more visitors to use Tigertail. There were even discussions of changing the name of Tigertail to add “Eco-Park” to it.

Improving Tigertail Park came about as part of a solution to the county’s serious issues with the beach parking at the county-owned South Beach parking lot.

Collier County needed a fix in anticipation of new residents projected to flock to the 951 corridor in the next ten years. There was even discussion on constructing a boardwalk over the lagoon. As a result, Tigertail Beach Park added a larger parking lot and constructed several boardwalk accesses to the tidal beach. But no tram or boardwalk over the lagoon was considered due to the disturbance it would cause to wildlife.

In March 2018, a report was finalized and presented by Humiston & Moore Engineers and Turrell, Hall & Associates to the Hideaway Beach Special Tax District. The report was meant to evaluate the changes in the lagoon system and provide recommendations to Hideaway for improved management of the lagoon system.

At a library presentation on September 18th, Dr. Dabees of Humiston & Moore Engineers reported that, “The evolution of Sand Dollar Island and Tigertail Lagoon is expected to continue following the established morphologic trend, and that recent changes indicate narrowing and shoaling of the lagoon further restricting tidal flow through to the south part of the lagoon.”

Specific to Tigertail Lagoon, Dr. Dabees explained that the segment of the lagoon directly to the north of Tigertail Beach is silted, and consequently, tidal flows from the north end of the lagoon (the only connection to the Gulf) are now insufficient to flush the lagoon area directly in front of Tigertail Beach.

From Dr. Dabees’ presentation, if we assume the existing trends continue, then in the short term, the Tigertail Beach Lagoon will become isolated from the other zones of the lagoon. Eventually, there will be no exchange of water, which will lower the salinity (turning into a brackish or freshwater pond), encouraging the growth of bacteria and algae.

Based on Ranger Data compiled by the Collier County Parks and Recreation Department for FY 2018, Tigertail Beach recorded 521,123 visitors to the park. The number of recorded visitors is most likely reflecting the projected growth in the 951 corridor, and the available parking at Tigertail is taking the pressure off from the limited parking at the county’s South Beach parking lot. But the deterioration of the Tigertail Lagoon may reduce the number visitors and the need for the large parking lot.

At high tide, Tigertail Beach is inundated with water, and a mud flat at low tide. It is a lagoon beach and the backside of a tidal lagoon, not a sandy beach. This is the nature of Tigertail Beach. So what is in the future for Tigertail Beach lagoon?

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