Most Del Mar Residents OK Bay Access

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The Dock of The Bay

Otis Redding has been extolling for almost 50 years the virtues of “sitting by the dock of the bay, watching the tide roll away.” If the plan agreed upon by the Town of Fort Myers Beach and the majority of the roughly 20 Del Mar Avenue residents comes to fruition, they will soon be “wastin’ time” at the end of their own neighborhood!

Mark Kincaid, senior engineer from Coastal Engineering Consultants, and Town administrative specialist Chelsea O’Riley, assisted by Interim Town Manager James Steele, welcomed the residents to the review session at Town Hall on Monday, April 24, with Chelsea saying, “We hope we will have a friendly discussion.”

“This is the second or third time we are getting together to talk about this project,” Mark said while providing a brief PowerPoint overview. “Two years ago, the Town Council at that time approved the current dock, but no one liked it, with the result that the neighbors and Town Staff came together to discuss a better plan that we are presenting today. It will most likely not meet the needs of everyone, nor will everyone will be happy with it, but we hope we can attain a compromise with which most people can live with.”

The present dock is small, resembling more of an ADA platform. Overgrown mangroves block what should be a scenic back bay view, and a path for a kayak access is almost impossible to utilize due to the thick mangroves. The proposed new dock will extend out toward the bay, more than three times its current length, “to bring it close to the water’s edge,” explained Mark, “while we will trim back the mangroves to better see the water.” Staff taped the actual size of the proposed dock onto the Council Chambers floor so the audience could get a real-life perspective as to its layout.

Save The Mangroves

“It will not have an ADA-accessible slope of the 1:12 ratio,” Mark pointed out, “but it will be a gentle slope of just 1:25. We will not construct it so it is in the water, so its timbers are not in saltwater that will quickly deteriorate them, and while we need to trim back some of the mangroves there, we will not remove any nor significantly disturb their foot print; trimming should only affect 4 to 5 branches. The same is true for the kayak launch next to the dock; we will need to trim mangroves but not destroy any. There will be a railing around most of the new structure that will be 3’6” high, from the ground to the top of the rail per the (land development) code.”

Mark emphasized that his presentation was a proposal only, based on comments from other meetings and Town staff, and they want input from the neighbors about what they want on their street. In responding to audience questions, he said they did not plan to pave the kayak launch, leaving it as rock and stone down to the water, and Town staff would be responsible for its upkeep. A suggestion was to add more rock to the kayak launch, down into the water for better traction, with Mark saying, “I don’t see a problem with that.”

Chelsea explained that once the residents provide their recommendation and Town Council accepts it, the Town will construct the project with its own funds rather than using Tourism Development Council (TDC) moneys: “We will do this with Town dollars, but it is still in the public right-of-way, meaning it is open to the general public.” The Interim Town Manager confirmed that the funds for this improvement are “in the current Town budget.”

Interim Town Manager Steele then asked the assembled neighbors if the presentation was “reasonable or unreasonable: By a show of hands, how many people think it is reasonable?” Fifteen residents indicated they felt it is a good plan and design, with 2 disagreeing, and 2 others having no opinion. In conclusion Steele said, “For the most part, this has been a good meeting!”

The proposed plan. Courtesy of the Town of Fort Myers Beach.
The proposed plan. Courtesy of the Town of Fort Myers Beach.

Town Council will consider this matter at its next meeting on Monday, May 1, at 9 a.m. Council can either move it forward or send it back to the drawing board, “but they view this as a high priority item.” If they do proceed, the permitting will take roughly 30 to 45 days, then the job goes out to bid and that may take an additional 2 to 3 months, before the roughly two-week estimated construction will occur. Asked if alterations can happen following approval, the Interim Town Manager stated, “We won’t change it, as we don’t want to get into trouble with Town Council or you!”

 

Gary Mooney