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Hercules, Coconut keen on pier plans

May 31, 2017
Jessica Salmond - News Editor ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

Many residents have been missing their old neighborhood docks, but the new plans drawn up by Fort Myers Beach Town Staff gave some hope.

Staff held public meetings with residents from Hercules Drive and Coconut Drive May 24 to review plans to replace the two docks the town had torn down almost two years ago.

A handful of Hercules Drive residents attended the meeting, but all of those present are in favor of the town's plan.

Article Photos

Coconut Drive's new pier will be a little wider and will be built parallel to the north and south property signs. The old dock was only about three feet wide and was build at an angle to the shore. Courtesy photo.

Mark Kincaid of Coastal Engineering Consultants filled residents in with a site plan. The new pier would extend out into the Back Bay at the same distance as the old dock. However, part of the existing seawall in the area is in need of repair and the current layout of the Hercules Drive bay access creates a small cove-like area that often washes in trash and debris.

Rather than keep that layout, Kincaid is proposing to connect the north and south seawalls with a new section of seawall, eliminating the need for the dysfunctional seawall to be repaired and keeping the area more free of trash.

This design would add about 20 feet of greenspace at the end of the street, Kincaid said. This space would be a part of the town's right of way, and would also he a cost reducer - the pier will still sit out as far as the old one into the bay, but less material is needed to build it. The old pier was 79 feet long. The new pier will be 59 feet long, with the 20 feet of fill extending its reach.

"I think it would be a win-win for the town," he said.

The new pier will be wider to comply with ADA requirements, and will have a observation and fishing area at the end.

Penny Jarrett, a street resident, asked if the new seawall will help protect a large tree at the end of the street. Kincaid said that it would.

"I love that tree," she said.

The old dock had a picnic table on it at which Jarrett would often go out and eat lunch. She's hoping she can convince the town to allow another. Baker and Kincaid said it could be an option if it was ADA accessible.

The seawall would be built before the pier, as the seawall is also a part of the stormwater system and Hercules Drive will be a street with an underground outfall that drains Estero Boulevard's stormwater collection.

"I think it's great," said resident Mitch Pacyna. "I can wait 18 months, if it's going to be that beautiful."

When asked if they liked the idea, the approximately six residents all said they approved of the proposal.

"The sooner we can get it rebuilt, the better," Jarrett said. "It's a great asset for residents and other folks too. It's nice to look out over the Bay."

Coconut Drive's meeting had a few more residents in attendance - approximately 14 - but they too were pleased with the drawings Kincaid showed them of their potential new pier.

Coconut's pier will be about 95 feet long, the same length as before. The old dock's footprint was skewed at an angle from the shoreline, so staff has righted it to run parallel to the north and south property lines. This adjustment brings the dock closer to the boat ramp to the left. The pier will also be ADA compliant at 5 feet wide, and the end will be 8 by 14 feet. Just as the original deck was built, so this one will reflect it: the left side won't have a rail. The purpose for this is it makes using the boat ramp easier.

"It's actually turning out better than I thought," resident Gracie Workman said after hearing Baker and Kincaid's presentation.

The original piers were declared derelict and torn down by the town in 2015. After outcry from neighbors, the town council included a $150,000 allocation in the 2016-2017 budget to build new piers for these two streets as well as renovate a disappointing "observation deck" on Delmar Avenue.

Both the piers will have lumber pilings wrapped with a plastic barrier to protect the wood from degradation and to keep the copper in the wood's treatment from leaching into the water. The top part, where people will be walking, sitting and fishing, will be made with a lasting synthetic material. Each pier will be be fully ADA accessible and also have benches.

The hitch with both piers is the timing, Baker said. The fact that these docks are built into the water means they have to get permits from both the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Army Corps of Engineers. While Baker doesn't think the projects will be denied, the process will be lengthy. The DEP permit usually comes back in 60 days, Kincaid said, but the Army Corps will probably be 300 days. The Corps is under no deadline to respond, and it will likely have the applications reviewed by sister agencies such as U.S. Fish and Wildlife and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

While the town waits for the permits, however, staff plans to start the bidding process and get contracts together with marine construction companies to do the work.

"The minute we get the permit we can start building," Baker said.

Staff is planning to present these two projects to town council during one of its June meetings to get approval, so it can start applying for the permits as soon as possible. Baker said he'll be applying for DEP and Army Corps permits at the same time for both projects and foresees them coming back close together if not at the same time. In this case, he plans to have one company build both piers together as a cost-saving measure. Should one pier's permits get significantly delayed, however, he said he would seek direction from council whether to wait or move forward building the other.

Although the permitting process is sure to guarantee a third year without their pier, neighbors seemed to accept the wait with hope that the final product would restore something their community had lost.

"At least we got to see the drawings. It's going to be lovely when it's done," Coconut resident Romaine Turner said. "It (the old dock) was rickety but it was always nice."

Becca Nakaya, another Coconut resident, has been fighting to get the pier rebuild since the town destroyed it in 2015. The old dock was a well-loved part of the community which had been there for more than 40 years, she said.

"We are united in what we do," Nakaya said. "It's good the town has recognized the ownership and the old Florida look of our street. We're not a thoroughfare."



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