Recommendations for passive parks and improvements at water accesses on Fort Myers Beach were approved at Town Hall Monday morning.
The Fort Myers Beach Town Council unanimously granted Town officials to continue a planning process at two beach accesses and two bayside accesses. The approved recommendations, made by a Town committee, allows Town officials to move forward with plans at Gulf Road and Canal Street (beach accesses) and Gulf Beach Road and Delmar Avenue (bayside accesses). There are no final plans in place.
"Our Community Resources Advisory Board was given the opportunity to develop improvements for both beach accesses and the possibility of opening up some bay access areas," said Town Public Works Director Cathie Lewis. "They have been working diligently on this and have developed new beach access signs."
The accesses could receive picnic tables, foot washes, memorial benches, water fountains and bike racks. Finalized plans will come forward to Council's attention at a later date.
"It's simply a beautification program," said Lewis. "This goes hand and hand with the Town's continuing activities to improve ADA accessibilites to the accesses."
While Council liked the design of the new road signage for the beach accesses, Beach Mayor Anita Cereceda amended the original, written motion to state the details of the access signage, particularly the style of lettering and fonts, would need to be more symmetrical and not "partially hand written."
"I'm a stickler for type styles," she said. "I like everything to look neat and clean and easy to read. Signs need to be as clear and simple as possible."
Funding for these projects comes from allotted monies by the Lee County Tourist Development Council. For fiscal year 2014, $64,000 has been approved. For next fiscal year, Town has requested $219,800 to continue the projects and fund additional accesses and a dock at the Gulf Beach Road bayside access, a site that has plans to include a kayak launch.
"The dollars that are in place now are for the permitting and the construction of the launch itself to get the project moving," said Lewis.
CRAB chair Miffie Greer has stated the improvements should be a very positive upgrade.
"Our purpose was to make these accesses usable, people friendly, island friendly and a positive sort of thing," she said.
In the past, some residents of Delmar Avenue had approached Town officials about a small, passive park at the end of their street. On Monday, street residents expressed concerns about excessive mangrove cutting, possible congestion and public intrusion on other properties.
"At the end of the street, the mangroves need to be saved," said Delmar Street resident Hugh Thimlar.
Initial plans at that particular access involve two public benches, a waste container, a recyclable container, a drinking fountain and mangrove trimming to improve the bay view corridor.
"The intention is just to trim (mangroves) there," said Lewis. "I think the area can stand to be cleaned up. We may want to do a little bit of improvement to the shoreline to help prevent additional erosion."
Landscape drawings of intentional uses at the proposed accesses were questioned prior to the approval.
"What we have are just preliminary sketching plans. This is not a final form," said Councilwoman Rexann Hosafros. "We are approving a recommendation, not a final plan at all."
Lewis stated roughly 70 percent of the Town's side streets have public access to the water. Gulf Beach Road and Delmar Avenue are among the 70 percent.
If final plans are approved in the future and project work is successful, there are intentions to continue park-style updates at more accesses on the Beach. CRAB has been working on the concept of access improvements for 2-1/2 years. Signage has been done in conjunction with the Town's Marine Resources Task Force.
"We are trying to use these accesses as models so that people can see what we are trying to do," Greer said.