'Some of their homes are in danger': Jupiter Inlet Colony closes beach as waves erode sand

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JUPITER INLET COLONY — The town has closed Jupiter Inlet Colony beach and its public access walkways until further notice because of how much its shoreline has eroded in the past few months.

The erosion has created steep drop-offs, some of them 10 feet high, from the dunes to the beach.

At high tide, the ocean has covered the bottom of stairways leading to the shore, blocking access to beachgoers.

Town engineers and building officials are inspecting homes along the beach to assess damage. Mayor Ed Hocevar said the erosion has caused a “substantial loss of property and significant threat to public safety.”

Several homes among the 25 that sit on the beach have sustained damage from the erosion. The ocean has carried away fences, pool structures, trees, bushes and parts of patios, but all of the houses, many of which cost their owners millions of dollars, are still standing.

Jupiter Inlet Colony wants to replenish sand, extend barrier wall

To deal with the effects, the town will add sand to the shore and extend a granite barrier wall, originally built in the 1980s, that currently protects 11 houses on the sand from erosion.

“We are exhausting all opportunities to try and accelerate this plan,” Hocevar said.

Town officials want to deposit 10,000 cubic yards of sand to the beach as soon as possible.

They are awaiting confirmation that the sand is the right size and color to match the grains already at the beach, a step that the Florida Department of Environmental Protection requires. The Jupiter Inlet District would donate the sand to the town. Its staff removed the sand from area waters during recent dredging.

Homes damaged from erosion on February 12, 2024, in Jupiter Inlet Colony, Florida.
Homes damaged from erosion on February 12, 2024, in Jupiter Inlet Colony, Florida.

Hocevar said the worst of the damage to the nearby area occurred Feb. 6 during a cold front. While erosion is still cutting the shore, it has slowed since then, he said.

High waves and strong currents promote erosion. Sea level rise, wave action and coastal flooding wear down and displace rocks, soils and sands along the coast, removing barriers to beachfronts, according to the U.S. Climate Resilience Tool.

Jupiter Inlet Colony resident saw waves reach into his back yard

Stephen Hendrickson has experienced damage to his house on the beach in Jupiter Inlet Colony, where he has lived for eight years. Last week, towering waves made their way to his backyard and left inches of sand behind, something he had never seen before.

The beach beyond his backyard lost about 10 feet of sand since he started noticing erosion damage in November.

“Just when I think I see sand returning and the beach seeming to be restored, we all of a sudden we have another storm with high winds that have seemed to exacerbate the erosion,” said Hendrickson, 64.

Most of his neighbors’ stairways that led to the beach have washed away, he said.

Hendrickson is grateful for the granite barrier wall that has protected his home and 10 others from greater damage. He lost some vegetation, mostly sea grapes and native flowering plants, but not entire fences like some of his neighbors.

“There are six homes where the ocean is literally in people’s backyards,” Hendrickson said. “It’s really scary. Some of their homes are in danger. It’s very significant and dramatic.”

Kid Rock and Conair heiress properties sustain damage

The rock singer Kid Rock and the Conair heiress Babe Rizzuto own waterfront homes on Ocean Drive south of the barrier wall, the stretch of beach that bore the worst erosion damage.

Rock lost about a quarter of his backyard to the erosion, which undermined a checkerboard-pattern patio and a concrete wall suspended in air over a steep drop to the beach. Hendrickson said the carved-out land is getting "closer and closer" to the structure of Rock's house.

Rock bought the 5,400-square-foot oceanfront house for $3.22 million. It was purchased in the name of Robert J. Ritchie as trustee of the RJR Trust. Robert Ritchie is Kid Rock's real name.

The home, which has a total market value of $5.6 million, has no homestead exemption, which means it's not considered a primary residence.

Erosion cut away some fence, palm trees and part of the backyard at the home belonging to Rizzuto, daughter of billionaire founder of Conair.

She bought the 5,883-square-foot home for $6.3 million in 2015, according to county records. The house is currently listed for sale for $22.5 million.

Maya Washburn covers northern Palm Beach County for The Palm Beach Post, part of the USA TODAY Florida-Network. Reach her at mwashburn@pbpost.com. Support local journalism: Subscribe today.

This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: Jupiter Inlet Colony closes beach as waves erode sand, threaten homes