GULF BREEZE — Gulf Islands National Seashore officials announced the beginning of onsite cleanup of asphalt fragments and road base materials at the park’s Santa Rosa Area.

This work may affect visitor use in the immediate areas where beaches are closed due to cleanup activities. These closures will be temporary and confined to discreet areas.

Minor impacts to parking and traffic flow in the particular area of cleanup activities may occur. This may affect commuters using J. Earle Bowden Way (Highway 399) between the hours of 7 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. Work on weekends and holidays is expected to be minimal, but may occur if significant rain delays are experienced.

“Although visitors may see unsightly large equipment on our beaches now, we are excited to see the significant improvements in the park’s appearance as a result of this work,” stated Superintendent Dan Brown. The current work is expected to continue through February 2018, and wrap up prior to the beginning of shorebird nesting season.

The entire Beach Enhancement and Asphalt Removal Project, which includes the Fort Pickens, Santa Rosa and Perdido Key areas of the park, is expected to take up to five years to complete, and includes stopping work during the peak of shorebird and sea turtle nesting.

To minimize disturbance during the early and late portions of nesting seasons, daily surveys will be conducted prior to initiation of cleanup activities and may result in work being limited to designated areas. Throughout each area, asphalt pieces ranging in size from large slabs to as small as a quarter of an inch in diameter, and other road base materials will be removed.

Removal efforts at the Fort Pickens Area during the 2016/2017 field season yielded approximately 400 cubic yards of material from over 150 acres. The goal is to clean 275 acres during the 2017-2018 field season. Surveys indicate an estimated 390 acres require cleaning at the Santa Rosa Area; any areas not cleaned will be completed during subsequent field seasons. Although not part of the current work plan for this year, the project will also include native plant installation to mitigate any damage to vegetation caused by the asphalt removal.

The asphalt removal project is needed because 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 a Deepwater Horizon Natural Resource Damage Assessment Early Restoration project, which was funded by BP. NRDA projects compensate the public for injuries to natural resources and the loss of the services they provide, such as recreational use.