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Lee BOCC approves shoreline, beach funds

By NATHAN MAYBERG / nmayberg@breezenewspapers.com - | Nov 16, 2020

The Lee County Board of County Commissioners approved 10 interlocal agreements for $3.56 million worth of beach and shoreline projects, including beach renourishment projects throughout the county.

The projects are being funded through tourist development taxes, administered by the Lee County Visitor and Convention Bureau.

The agreements are for the county and the Barrier Island Parks Society, Captiva Erosion Prevention District, city of Cape Coral, town of Fort Myers Beach and city of Sanibel for 10 separate Lee County beach and shoreline projects receiving $3,560,696 of Tourist Development Tax funding. The Tourist Development Council unanimously approved beach and shoreline funding recommendations for fiscal year 2020-21 totaling $9,107,155 across 16 projects throughout Lee County in August.

Sanibel received approval for the largest expenditure — $1.6 million for the maintenance of beach park facilities. Sanibel will also receive $40,000 for beach erosion monitoring.

City Manager Judie Zimomra said the maintenance is an allocation from the county’s tourist development tax dollars. The county funding covers about 37 percent of the approximately $4.3 million spent by the city on beach maintenance each year. The costs include personnel and equipment operations.

The funds go toward taking care of 15.5 miles of beach the city maintains year-round including the county’s Bowman’s Beach Park and Turner Beach on Captiva. The maintenance work covers 119 acres of land and also includes shade structures, fitness trails, restrooms, dune protection and parking lots.

The interlocal agreements also include $323,526 for a Captiva beach renourishment project and $72,800 for the Captiva beach park maintenance with the CEPD.

Cape Coral received $140,000 for maintenance of its beach parks. Cape Coral Parks Superintendent Matthew Creed said the funds are to pay for year-round daily maintenance of Four Mile Cove Ecological Preserve and Yacht Club Community Park Public Beach.

The commissioners approved $33,957 for state park utility vehicles at the Barrier Island Parks Society to conduct maintenance of the beach at Cayo Costa and Gasparilla Island state parks, and Gasparilla Island Lighthouse dune protection and walking trail maintenance.

Fort Myers Beach will receive approximately $1.3 million for beach renourishment and erosion monitoring, as well as beach and shoreline maintenance.

Robert Boykin, co-owner of the Pink Shell Resort, initiated a push to begin the beach renourishment project earlier this year with Fort Myers Beach and Lee County. In February, a beach erosion study from the area around Bowditch Point Park to Lynn Hall Memorial Park was approved. The county had budgeted $1.1 million this year for beach and shoreline monitoring.

According to the resolution approved on Nov. 10, $997,625 of the $1.3 million for Fort Myers Beach will go toward designing and permitting for beach renourishment.

The last renourishment project was done in 2011 and Boykin and hotel management have provided photos to the town and county showing the extent to which the beach has experienced erosion since. The beaches have undergone renourishment projects about once each decade since the 1980s.

The projects are “hugely important to the economy,” Boykin said. He expects the effects of Hurricane Eta to have accelerated the erosion of the beaches.

Boykin said the beaches cannot be ignored.

“This is why people come to Florida,” he said.