Seeking to further resolve the question as to what is/is not happening to our beach accesses, the Sand Paper sat down with Public Works Director Scott Baker this week, who explained to us that the main focus is making all 25 of the Town’s beach accesses more ADA compliant and replacing aging posts and rotting ropes so the accesses are more aesthetically pleasing to both residents and visitors.
After it was brought to our attention by several of our readers that a recent funding request to the Tourist Development Council (TDC) included ‘major beach access improvements to Sterling Avenue, Miramar Avenue and Avenue E’, we asked Baker why that request was made and about the status of the two accesses – Gulf Road and Canal Road – that were already approved by Council for improvements and funding granted.
“The reason that Sterling, Miramar and Avenue E are on the funding request for 2015/2016 is because I asked staff to find out which three accesses were in the worst condition regarding the mobi-mats, boardwalks over the dunes and the ropes and bollards,” Baker told us. “We want to put a big effort into improving the mobi-mats and some of the dune walkovers are in horrible shape cosmetically –we want to replace them with synthetic wood which is more durable and easier to wash. We also want to replace some of the square posts with round ones for a more nautical look.”
The 2015/2016 TDC request also mentioned a ‘Cheeki Hut’on Sterling, but Scott said that is in there because he wants to put up ‘a few’ shade structures at some places on the island where they are needed and wanted.
Baker explained that funding for Gulf Road and Canal Road improvements still remains, and that staff plans to return to both the Community Resources Advisory Board (CRAB) committee and then to Town Council with various options for those and for all beach accesses.
“This way we can get feedback from Council, residents, CRAB members – everyone,” he said. “On the south end of the island, the accesses are mostly used by residents in those neighborhoods, so improvements like water fountains are really more for them to enjoy.”
The two bayside accesses recommended by CRAB and approved by Council for improvements have already been completed, and a brand new floating dinghy dock now sits behind Topp’s, serving those utilizing the Town’s mooring field.
“The reason I decided to do those before the beach accesses is because I wanted to see what we could accomplish,”he said. “Beach access improvements will take a lot more time as we need to make them all consistent. The signs that CRAB and Council worked on are done and up, and they are beautiful.”
As far as the roadside beach access signs, Scott told us the Town is real close to finalizing the permitting for them.
“It’s not as simple as ripping the old green ones down and replacing them,” he said. “We have to replace the poles, too, and that means getting an engineer out to make sure they’re the right wind resistance and then pulling permits to install them,” he said. “We’re close to that point now for the accesses south of the County’s road project, and the rest will be installed once the county finishes the first segment of Estero Boulevard reconstruction.”
Keri Hendry Weeg