Let Our People Go

238

The lack of public restroom facilities on Fort Myers Beach is a disgrace.

Bowditch Point Park, Lynn Hall Park and Crescent Beach Family Park are all Lee County facilities and clustered on the north end. The Town has public facilities at Newton Park. Also at Bay Oaks, Mound House and Town Hall when those buildings are open, but they are too far to walk from the beach. To anyone who doubts that, we wish a 4-year-old after draining a full water bottle at the beach. Let’s see if you can walk that 4-year-old from the waterline to any of those places in time. Go!

Our community welcomes over 2 million visitors every year. They are the fuel that drives our economic engine year in and year out. Yet our Town seems to have this love/hate relationship with visitors, beginning with the huge, imposing No Parking signs at our bridges and lack of public facilities.

The Town owns over two dozen beach accesses between Avenue A and Flamingo and they have all but deeded them to the adjacent property owners. They provide parking at these accesses at $3/hour. Nothing says welcome more than $3/hour parking. Parking tickets provide an additional steady stream of revenue.

Wouldn’t you think that some of that revenue would be used to make those accesses just a bit more visitor & resident friendly? There’s money for signs and trash and recycling cans. But there is no money nor will for anything like a foot shower or benches or restrooms.

Public land should serve the public, not just the neighbors. There are no new public accesses on our island. They’ve all been there for a very long time. Long enough, apparently, for the neighbors to have grown accustomed to their power to control how those who actually do own them — the public — use those accesses. Our Town Council has enabled that belief by caving every time a project that would add any functionality to a beach access has been proposed.

We’ve heard it’s not allowed in the Comp Plan. Not sure that’s accurate, but great! We’re about to revise the Comp Plan so let’s find a way to allow it. There was talk of requiring parking lot owners to provide restrooms – except all those lots are clustered on the north end, not far from existing facilities.

Where exactly do you think all those people are relieving themselves? They are not walking or driving miles to the county restrooms or Newton Park. They are either wading into the water or stepping into the shrubbery to relieve themselves. Disgusting? Yes, but the truth. Our water quality has enough challenges. Why is this not a water quality issue?

And finally, the elephant in the room. The homeless. How many services, like restrooms or benches at beach accesses or showers at Bay Oaks do not exist because of the fear that they’ll be used by the homeless? Surely we can address the challenges presented by our homeless community without depriving residents and visitors of needed services.

The Town has the power to change this dynamic and serve residents and visitors better by providing more public facilities. We hope they do.