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Friday, May 25, 2018
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A new pass at Shell Key Preserve, courtesy of Hurricane Irma

Shifting sands and isolated islands are two of our favorite things here at FloridaBeachInsider.com, so news about shifting sands at an isolated island — Shell Key, in this case — really floats our boat (so to speak).

Hurricane Irma took a big swipe at Shell Key in October 2017. The giant storm literally tore through the island, opening up a new pass right in the middle of the key.

That's actually good news, because the nature preserve used to have a pass, but it filled up a couple of years ago, which was a problem in and of itself.

Tampa Bay Times reporter Craig Pittman took a boat out to Shell Key (which last we visited as a camping destination) to see what wasn't there:

AT THE SHELL KEY PRESERVE — From a boat puttering along in the water, the sandy beach seems to go on and on. Then, abruptly, it ends at a mass of tangled, overturned mangroves where a great blue heron sits on an exposed root. And there, stretching for the next 120 feet, is a brand new opening in Shell Key off the Pinellas County coast. Two years ago, fans of the Shell Key Preserve in Tierra Verde feared it was dying, killed off by stagnant water when the only pass cutting through the island silted shut. There were meetings and petitions and discussions about what to do, even a vote by the Legislature — but nothing happened. Then Hurricane Irma swept through in September and blew open this new pass, one that has grown wider in the succeeding months. “I’ve just been calling it Irma Pass,” said Peter Clark, founder and president of the conservation group Tampa Bay Watch. To the quartet of 20-somethings who had anchored their boats at a sand bar in the pass Thursday afternoon so they could hop out and dance and drink a beer or two, it’s just “the new pass.” “It’s a new spot where people can gather up and join together and have a good time,” said Denis Frain, 25, of St. Petersburg. “It’s awesome,” agreed his friend Taylor Donaldson, 24.

Click here to read all of Pittman's story.

For more information about Shell Key Preserve, check out the Pinellas County website here.

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