Members of the Fort Myers Beach Community Resource Advisory Board have a better understanding as how to fulfill its mission after attending a joint meeting with Town Council and staff members Monday morning.
The Town committee requested the workshop session to get clarification on how it could improve to "enhance the quality of life on Estero Island through a vision for the community." According to Town records, its mission is accomplished through "the promotion and implementation of such community activities as public education, leadership, volunteerism, beautification and recreation through the development and cultivation of a corps of community leaders and volunteers."
CRAB has been working on beautifying beach and bay accesses. During the roundtable discussion, it was given the added responsibility of locating beach access mobile restrooms by reaching out to the public, a task that the Town's Marine Resources Task Force had most recently but CRAB held previously before Council changed direction.
Councilman Bob Raymond, who was out on medical leave at the time of the task switch, stated only one committee should be communicating with neighboring residents of beach access on all issues.
"They were already working on these beach accesses and contacting people who live by those beach accesses," he said. "Why would you want to have another group of people come in and contact the same people again?"
CRAB has been working on the design of two beach accesses and two bay accesses to serve as models for future work. A sizable Tourist Development Council grant can be used in fiscal year 2013-14, which begins Oct. 1, to further enhance that effort. The beach accesses are located at Canal Street and Gulf Road, and the bay accesses are at Gulf Beach Road and Delmar Avenue.
"We need public facilities, but so far we have been shut down with that idea," said Councilwoman Jo List.
Town officials were met with objection when they tried to place mobile restrooms at beach accesses in the past.
"We had no time to prepare a community," said Mayor Alan Mandel. "I think you have enough reason to go back one more time (on this issue), but better prepared."
Town Manager Terry Stewart believes an incentive may be needed.
"It seems to me that in order to ask people to get passed that initial negative reaction, we have to be able to provide some benefit to them," he said.
Those involved residents will be invited to a future CRAB meeting to listen to a proposed plan and voice any concerns. Town-sanctioned letters will be sent out as well.
CRAB is also looking to involve art projects at the model accesses. The volunteer group has planned leadership conferences in the past and may also work on a proposed park on Mound Key if the Town gains annexation to that island.
"It has been a very positive relationship," Stewart said about the inter-workings between the advisory board and Town staff.
Bay Oaks youth program sees spike in membership
There has been a large increase in membership for Bay Oaks Recreational Campus youth program, says acting Town Parks & Recreation Director Randy Norton. Roughly five years ago, the program was close to being dissolved. Now, thanks to a change in youth coordinator (currently Sarah Mayher) and the unfortunate suspension of Chapel by the Sea's KidZ Days after-school program, the program is seeing a resurrection of sorts.
"School year 2012-13, we saw a drastic increase. We added 10 kids in registration, which at that time was 33 kids," said Norton. "This year, our registration was up immediately. As of last Thursday, (Sept. 12), we currently have 43 kids registered.
"The right people in the right place can make a huge difference. We went from struggling and (wondering if) we (were) going to keep this program going to more or less servicing one out of every three kids on the island," he said.
The Town filled one of its recreation aide positions by hiring Chapel's after school program coordinator.
"The kids are getting more out of it. They are coming and staying," added Norton. "I think it has to do with the service we are providing."
Norton also discussed the athletic fitness schedule and the Bay Oaks Corporate Plan, which involves businesses on-island as well as off-island the ability to sign up and offer their guests membership to Bay Oaks, including the Town poll, for use of the center's facilities, to participate in all campus programs and receive reduced fee-based activities.
Since the "Every Resident A Member" campaign, which offers all Beach residents free membership, Bay Oaks overall numbers have increased from 245 members to 1,342, with the latest being Mayor Mandel who stopped by after the workshop and signed up.