Gazebo on the way out at Bayside Park
Some see charm in gazebo which council and neighboring businesses don't see need for
Fort Myers Beach is going through a lot of changes and Bayside Park is no different. Gaining consensus on the town’s plans for overhauling the park has proven to be a challenge.
For the two businesses on either side of Bayside Park off Old San Carlos Boulevard, the town is headed in the right direction though they differ on some aspects of the overhauls.
The town council has given the go-ahead to allow its engineering and design consultants DRMP to send out the Bayside Park plans for bid. Those plans, as drawn up by DRMP with input from town staff and the town council, includes shade sails, a new grassy area, some replacement of trees and removal of trees, a new stage, veteran’s memorial tribute and rain garden.
A longstanding gazebo at the center of the park near the rail overlooking Matanzas Pass would be removed for the stage. The neighboring businesses support the removal of the gazebo but not the replacement of the stage.
That stage, big enough to hold about three people, is “out of place,” said Nervous Nellie’s co-owner Tyler Lemmer. He said a stage would only be used a few times a year, not enough to justify the cost. The restaurant borders the park on one side.
However, Lemmer said he didn’t support keeping the gazebo.
“I think it should be removed. I don’t want anything in its place,” Lemmer said. “It’s a park. Let’s open it up.” Lemmer said the gazebo attracts homeless people.
Snug Harbor co-owner Peter Ennis, whose restaurant borders the other side of the park, shared Lemmer’s view regarding the stage and gazebo. He said the park is “not a big area to begin with.”
Ennis said the gazebo was “outdated and doesn’t have the nice appearance that Bayside park should have.”
He doesn’t support plans by some on the council to install shade trees at the park, which he said would block the view of the water.
Fort Myers Beach Mayor Ray Murphy said the gazebo, which is younger than the town, will be coming down. “I don’t know how much use it gets,” Murphy said.
Murphy said he recently met with the two neighboring businesses and said he supports their desire to merge the walking paths along the rails overlooking the bay at the rear of the park. Murphy said some work would need to be done on the seawall and docks to make it happen.
“It will make a very nice walk for people,” Murphy said.
“I don’t think there is much difference in what everyone wants,” Murphy said.
Chris Lloyd, of Fort Myers Beach, said he didn’t like the town’s plans for Bayside Park and the gazebo. “It’s a little bang for a lot of buck,” he said. He said a stage was preferable to the gazebo but wasn’t worthy of the cost. “I think the gazebo is fine,” Lloyd said.
Lloyd said if there were more events requiring a stage at Bayside Park than the stage could be justified. “This space is so small, how many people are going to be able to utilize it?”
For David Bickes, of Michigan, the plans to remove the gazebo are “horrible. It’s a great place to hang out.” Bickes said he and his family have been visiting Fort Myers Beach for the last 10 years and enjoys the gazebo. “I love it,” he said.
“I hate to see it go,” Bickes said.
Lemmer said he would like to see a small-scale fountain return to Bayside Park. The old fountain has issues due to the seawall leaking, he said.
Lemmer and Ennis want to move the veteran’s memorial from the front of the park with the rain garden (where it is currently proposed to go) to alongside the walking path near the back rails overlooking the bay.
Lemmer said the town’s new plans are moving in the right direction.
Ennis said he is fine with the town’s plans for shade sails overlooking the park, along with a new grassy area to replace trees at the center of the park which are currently equipped with lights.
Ennis also wants the park and general area to be lit up more. He said the installation of turf would give it a “nice park feel.”
Cost estimates for the project depend on which features are ultimately chosen as well as the final design and engineering fees for DRMP.
Town of Fort Myers Beach Manager Roger Hernstadt said “We are developing specifications for a bid to replace the gazebo with a stage. Town council will make the decision to proceed or not when the contract award is up for a vote.”
According to the town’s contracts with DRMP from 2020, they are to be paid $190,700 for the design of the Bayside Park project plus $1,000 for design meetings and public relations. Permitting costs are expected to cost another $6,000 for the firm along with more than $8,000 for the stormwater portion.
The contract also calls for additional charges depending on the time it takes to approve the designs.
Fort Myers Beach Communications Coordinator Jennifer Dexter stated Thursday that DRMP is to be paid $242,208 for its work on Bayside Park at 90% completion. The total project has an estimated cost of $524,000 at 90% completion before bid.