Mayor R.B. Johnson cuts the ribbon to officially open the 18 new floating docks at Keegan Clair Park in Indian Rocks Beach. With him, from left, are Commissioner Jim Labadie, Vice-Mayor Cookie Kennedy, City Manager Chuck Coward, IRB Boat Club President Bob Griffin and Commissioner Phil Hanna. Looking on are members of the Coast Guard Auxiliary.
INDIAN ROCKS BEACH – It could be the longest planned project in the history of Indian Rocks Beach. If not, the new floating docks in Keegan Clair Park would have to rank right up there. The docks were officially opened on May 4 after what has been described as an awfully long time.
Mayor R.B. Johnson recalled that the idea of having a boardwalk along the park with docks and linking up to the boardwalk along the Holiday Inn property goes back to the 1990s. And he said the discussion has continued since then.
“There was a special Intracoastal Committee formed several years ago and they talked about having docks here,” he said. “Then the USF study six years ago recommended the docks. The wheels of government turn slowly and now here we are. Initially there were to be fewer docks but now there are18 and they are magnificent.”
Co-sponsoring the opening with the city was the IRB Boat Club. President Bob Griffin remembered the docks being talked about many years ago.
“I was on that Intracoastal committee that recommended the docks,” he said. “They told us at the time that it wasn’t in our mandate to talk about such a thing. But once I got to be the president of the Boat Club I was able to talk about it all I wanted. For sure we’ve been talking about it for 10 years.”
City Manager Chuck Coward, who is retiring at the end of May, says the establishment of the docks will go down as one of his greatest accomplishments as manager. He said he wasn’t alone in making it happen.
“It does take a village sometimes,” he said. “There are so many people to thank and on top of the list are the mayor and commissioners of this city. During the process there was some push back from some of the neighbors, but the strong and committed commission members stayed that way and we got it done.”
He thanked resident Steve Levine for pushing for a launching place for kayaks and canoes and resident Bert Valery for urging that the docks be able to accommodate big boats.
“When Bert came to talk to us about the design of the docks he also noted that we had only planned to have six docks. He convinced us to re-think that number and to consider the idea of floating docks which is what we have today,” said Coward.
Coward also described the process of being legally able to get the job done.
“We had to get five permits for this job,” he said. “Two of them were from us; but there was one each from the county, state and federal governments.”
He said each of those applications cost money and was time-consuming.
Coward also thanked Public Services Director Dean Scharmen for his role in the project.
“When you have 20 different contractors working on a job like this one, somebody has to ride shotgun and Dean was that man. He oversaw every step of this job and you can see the results. Already there is a demand. We have been averaging 45 boats a day on sunny days, and soon the members of the Triangle Business Community will be erecting an information kiosk so boaters will be able to find their way to the business or restaurant of their choice.”
The docks actually won an award. The American Public Works Association, Florida Division, named the job the 2013 Structure Project of the Year.
The new docks were just part of a three-pronged project in the area over the last year. In addition, extensive shore stabilization took place as well as cosmetic improvements to Keegan Clair Park itself. All three projects cost nearly $550,000. $200,000 of that amount went to the docks, $312,000 for the shore stabilization and $35,000 for park improvements.
There is no charge for boaters to tie up to the docks, although there is no staying overnight.
At one time Johnson described the docks as providing an extra highway to his city.
“No longer will people who want to come to Indian Rocks Beach be restricted to cars or buses,” he said. “They can now use the water. It will add some extra vitality to the area.”