FORT MYERS BEACH, Fla. — Lee County has cleaned up more than 73,000 cubic yards of dirty sand since Hurricane Ian. However, County leaders could not answer our question: when will the beaches reopen?
"That’s a question I’m going to have to defer to someone else because that’s a combination of Department of Health, County in terms of access so that’s a decision that hasn’t been made yet," said Glen Salyer, Assistant County Manager.
When we asked the deferred person, someone the county says is a sand quality expert, they could not answer that question either.
Though there's no timeline, some on Fort Myers Beach believe the beach will not take long to clean up.
"I’m thinking probably at the pace they’re going, five, six months before they open it up to any kind of you know, carousing on the beach," said Bart Churchward, who lives on Fort Myers Beach. "Just going to take a little time to rebuild. "
It's a beach Churchward is still trying to enjoy as he takes a break from cleaning up his property.
"I actually took my bike and rode up and down the beach and plenty of beach there," he said. "Usually you see a ton of vacationers and you have to kinda have to ride around them. But today it was very serene and peaceful."
Crews are working 24/7 to clean up the beaches, County leaders said. However, there are challenges.
"Screening it for debris, making sure that it’s of a quality that can actually be put back on the beach," Salyer said.
Contractors take the sand and put it in one pile. They remove it one bucket at a time and drop it into a sifter. The machine separates the large and small debris into two piles. The clean sand goes into another pile and will eventually go back onto the beach.
Clearing up the debris is something many businesses could use sooner rather than later as employees try to rebuild paradise.
"I think it might help some local businesses try to recover if there’s some type of tourism without some hotels being prepared yet," said Quinn Rudler, an employee at Tunaskin. "We understand that it’s going to take time and there’s plenty of work for us to do still."
A recovery that's going to take time to get through.
"I think it might take a long time, but I think it’s one of the best beaches around," Rudler said.