SUN PHOTO/TOM VAUGHT Manatee County Natural Resources
Director Charlie Hunsicker shows members of the county
commission the escarpments made by the tide along the
northern beaches of Anna Maria.
ANNA MARIA – They didn’t say yes and they didn’t say no. It was more like, "We’ll try."
That’s the reaction the Manatee County Board of Commissioners had to a presentation by the city of Anna Maria asking for inclusion in an upcoming renourishment project. The meeting was held at the Anna Maria Island Community Center and on the beach.
The county commission gave a consensus approval to have its beach engineering firm, Coastal Planning and Engineering, look into including Anna Maria north of the Sandbar restaurant and around but not including Bean Point Point in a beach nourishment project planned for 2009 or 2010. It left open whether the county might pay for new sand along a stretch of bayfront property near the Rod and Reel Pier, where water often laps over seawalls behind homes during storms.
That project would extend beach nourishment south of the original 1992 nourishment project boundaries into Coquina Beach and County Natural Resources Director Charlie Hunsicker said that the county might push to have all of the beaches nourished over the past 16 years packaged together for eventual federally-financed future renourishment projects.
Last spring, the county commission voted against supporting the Anna Maria extension, citing the fact that the city did not have adequate usable beach access parking and homeowners on or near the beach had long wanted to exclude parking for beachgoers near their homes. They also said that there were not enough motels in Anna Maria to support spending bed tax dollars on renourishment.
At last Tuesday’s presentation, Anna Maria Mayor Fran Barford stressed the city’s amenities to tourists and why it needs to have good beaches. She said there are 66 businesses within city limits including six high-end restaurants, the historic Rod and Reel Pier and the City Pier and more than 35 beach accesses leading to the beaches, Bean Point and the bayfront. She also talked about the Pine Avenue Restoration Project.
"In the old days, people used to dock at the City Pier that will be 100 years old in 2011 and promenade down Pine Avenue," she said. "The restoration project is trying to re-create that."
Barford said that the city had recounted its parking spaces and had more than 300 signs out to provide directions to those spaces.
At that point, the group went to a waiting bus to be transported around the city and see some of the beaches that had suffered from storms and erosion. Unfortunately, they picked a day and time when the tide was unusually low, but the commissioners apparently got the picture before coming to their consensus.
When they returned to the community center, Coastal Planning and Engineering Vice President Rick Spadoni, who has represented the county’s interests in the three nourishments and renourishments since the first in 1992, talked about our beaches.
"In my career, which began in 1976, Anna Maria Island has had the worst eroded beaches I have ever worked on," he said. "It’s so bad that the Island had literally no beaches in some areas in the central part and it has been a chronic problem."
He recalled the first nourishment, when the Army Corps of Engineers used heavy, dark sand that degraded the quality of the beaches until the sand bleached out.
He recalled the 2002 renourishment, when they added a portion of beach around the Sandbar restaurant, but fell short in going north when property owners refused to approve giving up their rights to the new beaches. He said that most of those owners later asked to be included, but the renourishment barge had moved on.
He talked about the failed project in 2005, when the Corps of Engineers finally fired the contractor for not performing and leaving pipe along the beach for months.
Then he addressed the project before them at Coquina Beach, where they would be eligible or 90 percent Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funding to get the dredge into the area to renourish Coquina Beach. He said they could hire that contractor to do Anna Maria’s beaches without having to pay for getting the dredge to the area.
After the meeting, Joan Dickinson, who lives in a bayfront house where the water comes up to her seawall, said she felt cautiously optimistic about her chances of getting sand between the bay and her home.