Dockmaster Bob Castor helps Indian Rocks Beach residents Sonja and Gabor Kis as they pull into the new floating docks at Keegan Clair Park in Indian Rocks Beach.
INDIAN ROCKS BEACH – After six years of dreaming, talking and working through bureaucracy, the new docks at Keegan Clair Park in Indian Rocks Beach are now open.
They opened on Sept. 14, much to the delight of city officials who have been working on the project in earnest for three years.
“It is something we’ve been talking about for years,” said Mayor R.B. Johnson. “I think it is going to be a fabulous opportunity for boaters to experience our restaurants and shops.”
Keegan Clair Park is located adjacent to the Triangle business district and the hope is that boaters on the Intracoastal Waterway will tie up at the new docks, stroll around the community and spend some money while they are at it.
“I think even IRB residents will use it,” said Johnson. “People who might cruise along the waterway might want to stop in here on their way home for a bite to eat or a visit to their favorite watering hole or whatever.”
City Manager Chuck Coward remembers seeing a reference to having docks installed at the park when he was hired four years ago.
“I read about the concept in the USF study that was commissioned by the city to identify needs and ways to improve,” he said. “After I talked to people around town and the Mayor and City Commissioners I realized that installing the docks was a priority.”
Coward also said it was a project that he and his staff deemed achievable.
Thus began the process of designing the docks, getting permits to build them and applying for grants to help pay for them.
“We had to get permits from both the state and the federal government,” said Coward. “We even had to get variances from ourselves because of the size of the project. All that took over a year.”
There were more than just the 18 docks involved. As they began to explore doing it, they discovered the shore was eroding along the park and the park itself would need to be upgraded to handle the boat traffic generated by the docks. In the end, the three projects cost nearly $550,000. The docks cost $200,000, half of which was paid for by a state grant. The shore stabilization cost $312,000 and the park improvements $35,000.
Some of the park improvement work is still under way, limiting access to the docks. But the work should be complete by the end of October.
Still to come is the launch area for kayaks and canoes, which will include a wash-off station. The docks themselves have been ready since July but the other work prevented their being used. Not any more.
“There is now safe, clear passage to the docks,” said Coward.
Johnson is excited with the possibilities the docks will bring to his city.
“It is like an extra highway,” he said. “No longer will people who want to come to Indian Rocks Beach be restricted to cars or buses. They can now use the water. It will add some extra vitality to the area. We might even be able to use it for our annual holiday boat parade; they can tie up there after it is over.”
There is no charge for docking and plenty of signs have been installed to help boaters find their way around town.
In addition, a part-time dockmaster will be on duty Friday, Saturday and Sunday to help with directions and give assistance tying up the boats.