Mexico Beach is slowly rebuilding after the storm, but it’s still seeing a significant decrease in tourism. While tourists are a vital part of its economy, President of the Mexico Beach Community Development Council Kimberly Shoaf said the city isn’t where they hoped for the season. Some residents are still living in campers, apprehension growing while the air still strong with the scent of mildew. Before the storm, the town served about 2,250 utility accounts, the city administrator said. Now Mexico Beach services about a third of that. In most cases, residents are still having to travel outside to buy simple commodities such as bread because the local grocery store is gone. Officials are estimating they will need to spend $60 million just for debris removal, money that should be reimbursed by the federal government.
On the vast beach, excavators can be seen carving a path along the water, scooping sand to sift out rubble and debris. Restoring the marina and boat ramps and 28 dune walkovers are priorities in a place that depends on tourism. Crews may need as many as 2,700 truckloads of sand to build up emergency berms at the edge of the beach. Later on, officials will look to building a new pier and government complex. Most of the street signs have yet to be replaced because of the concern that dump trucks and bulldozers will knock them down.
Three restaurants remain open in Mexico Beach, three of its four hotels have been demolished, and the other one is still being rebuilt. This hasn’t stopped dedicated tourists from making their way to the area, although many only come for a single day trip. Tourists such as Candi Brewer have been visiting Mexico Beach for many years. “This is my happy place, I love it, it’s laid back and quiet and everybody’s friendly, and I’d rather go here only,” said Brewer. Tourism officials want people to come and enjoy Mexico Beach but don’t want them to expect it to be what it once was. In time, Mexico Beach will be restored but for now, it is a shell of the place it once was.
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