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County to overhaul popular beach accesses

January 16, 2019
By JESSE MEADOWS ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

Southwest Florida's most used beach accesses could get a remodel late this year.

Lee County has planned a major redesign of the four beach accesses at Lynn Hall Memorial Park.

They want to replace the existing walkways with elevated dune walkovers, filling in the dunes underneath and replanting the surrounding vegetation to stabilize them.

The walkways have become a maintenance issue for the county, according to Mark Kincaid of Coastal Engineering Consultants, who presented the project to the Local Planning Agency at their meeting on Jan. 8.

"Because those accesses are flat and level with the sand, the constant foot traffic of people walking back and forth takes sand up there. The wind blows the sand up across those boardwalks and into the parking areas, so it's a daily process of keeping those boardwalks clean," he said.

Currently, the access closest to Times Square is the widest, to accommodate a higher volume of foot traffic.

It is also the only one of the four wide enough for the county's maintenance equipment to access the beach.

The new plan would widen the furthest access to accommodate these vehicles instead.

It would also connect the access nearest the Lynn Hall restrooms to the elevated deck, extending out over the dunes onto the beach from there.

To meet ADA requirements regarding grade, they will have to make the accesses longer and add switchbacks, partially encroaching into the Environmentally Critical zone on the beach.

"ADA requires we do not exceed a 12-to-1 ramp, so every foot we go up, you have to go 12 feet further," explained Kincaid at the meeting.

He said the Department of Environmental Protection and Florida Fish and Wildlife had concerns about sea turtle nesting, so the currently proposed length is as far as the walkovers can possibly extend.

The Board of County Commissioners have already entered into a sea turtle nesting agreement with the FFWC for permitting, according to Jesse Lavender, director of Lee County Parks and Recreation.

Construction costs for the walkovers will be approximately $438,000, he said at the meeting, and the county would like to begin in November.

The Town of Fort Myers Beach's code requires minor structures like dune walkovers to go through a special exception process.

"It's maybe 10 percent that crosses into the EC zone...if somebody comes in with 100 percent of their walkover in the EC, that's a different conversation," Jason Green told the LPA during the county's presentation.

The Town has been locked in a legal dispute against two property owners and the DEP regarding a proposed private dune walkover adjacent to an EC zone since 2016, and are currently awaiting a ruling.

"There's no impact, theres enhancement," said Kincaid at the meeting.

"By the time we're done, there's going to be 10 times more plants being planted than what would have been disturbed."

The LPA passed a motion to approve the special exception, and scheduled a hearing for their Feb. 12 meeting.



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