Palm trees form a tunnel leading to this abandoned beach fort on a barrier island in Florida

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What’s more important, history, economics, or ecological restoration? You’re going to get different answers from different people and each is problematic.

If you preserve the island as it is, are you actually preserving history? That idea relegates history to the past and ignores that the “sinking” itself is a historic event.

In economic terms it makes sense to “restore” the island but only if you can also increase how many people are going to it. But, if you increase the number of people in a way that offsets the costs, don’t you run the risk of increased degradation? It becomes a cycle then, and at some point it’s going to be difficult to justify for economic reasons alone.

If you leave the island be, let things move around you will allow the ecology to return to a more natural balance. But we shouldn’t pretend that Tampa’s cost, or anywhere, is “ecologically pure” or devoid of human inputs as is. Humans form major parts of complex ecosystems and it could be argued that regardless of what’s done, that is the natural ecosystem. Humans modifying the island is no different from any other animal making modifications to it to suit their needs.

I don’t really have an answer. I think I have some basis of understanding the problem but I’m not sure that there can be one solution or that any one solution is best. I just find it interesting that it’s always barrier islands that need to be saved when really we shouldn’t be building on them in the first place. Doing so tends to cause nothing but trouble down the road.

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