Members of Dunedin’s Waterfront Task Force meet in the Community Center June 3 to discuss the future of the waterfront.
DUNEDIN – Many Dunedin residents don’t know where the Dunedin beach is located – or what it is, the chairman of the Dunedin Waterfront Task Force says.
“In fact the beach is alongside the Causeway,” said John Tornga at the task force’s meeting June 3 at the Community Center. “Back when the Causeway was built in 1964 it was the intention that the beach be there, and it is.”
The task force has been charged with looking into the future of Dunedin’s shoreline.
Group facilitator Diana Carsey said there was 37 miles of shoreline in Dunedin, split among three administrations.
“3.6 miles are under the jurisdiction of the County,” she said. “24 miles are under state control and 8.6 miles belong to Dunedin.”
She said Edgewater Park, near the city’s downtown, was the most prominent facility on the city’s waterfront.
“It has the marina, restaurant, the gazebo and parking,” she said. “There is a pram shed on the property (Pram is a type of small sailboat) and it is overloaded with boats. God help us if a hurricane ever comes. That is a fragile important asset.”
Then participants turned their attention to two main presentations that were made at the meeting. The first was by Peter Krulder, Honeymoon Island park manager. Krulder spoke of the history of the Caladesi Island and Honeymoon Island, both State Parks located just off shore.
“Caladesi Island was declared a State Park in 1966,” he said. “Before that developers wanted to build it out but as it happened some residents of Dunedin started the movement to have it declared a state park and that happened.”
About 219,000 people visited Caladesi Island last year.
Krulder said the history of Honeymoon Island was much the same.
“In the 1960s the developers wanted to expand Honeymoon Island 10 times its size,” he said. “But the same thing happens, local
people moved to turn it into a park, as it is it is three times its original size.”
More than 1 million people visited Honeymoon Island last year and it is the busiest state park in all of Florida, said Krulder, who also noted the impact of the islands to the general economy.
“Studies show that there is an economic impact of $64 million a year from the parks,” he said. “Thirty-nine percent of the visitors are from outside the county and they shop in the
stores, buy gas, stay in hotels and just spend their money during their stay. Whenever people complain about the $3 million it takes for beach re-nourishment I laugh because it is worth so much more than that.”
The second major presentation at the meeting came from Jackie Nigro, a resident of Royal Stewart Arms on Honeymoon Island and a member of Dunedin’s Environmental Quality Committee. She presented highlights of a county study on the future of the two bridges which link the island to the mainland.
“There are two bridges along the Causeway, the Bascule Bridge and the Relief Bridge,” she said. “A study done in 2007 declared the bridges to be obsolete and in 2009 another study said the Bascule Bridge had serious deficits. Both bridges were built in 1963 and had come to the end of their 50-year lifespan.”
Some repairs were done to the bridges, which will allow it to be used until 2014 after which more repairs will have to be done at a cost of $10.5 million. That should give the bridge life until 2025. It was then that Nigro focused on the report.
“It is a preliminary study but they are talking about eliminating both existing bridges and building a new fixed span bridge.” She said. “It will be 75 feet high to accommodate sailboats. Just to put that into perspective it will be higher than the Dunedin water tower.”
Nigro said the study pointed out that the new bridge would be safer, continue to be the evacuation route off the island, cut down on maintenance costs and help the traffic flow.
“Although I don’t see how that would help,” she said.
She said the study showed the cost of the new bridge, in 2009 when the study was done, would have been $82.6 million, now it would be $96 million and in 2019 would be $118 million.
“You can see the cost going up year after year,” she said.
She also pointed out that before anything is built alternate plans have to be identified and studied.
“That could mean rehabbing the existing bridges, or rerouting boat traffic around Honeymoon Island altogether.”
She also wondered whether the new bridge would allow the beach to still exist along the causeway. One participant reminded the group that before the new Belleair Bridge was built there was considerable recreational activity in the area.
“Now there is about one tenth the activity on one side of the bridge,” he said.
Wrapping up the meeting, Tornga said the next meeting of the Citizens’ Task Force would focus on the future.
“A vision will be prominent,” he said. “What do we want in the future? what do we want in Dunedin’s waterfront? I ask you to think about this. Imagine yourself above, in a helicopter looking down on our islands and parks; what would you want Dunedin to be known for?”
He said the visioning process would look at what might happen in 2025 and then in 2050.
The next meeting of the Task Force will be on July 15, 2 p.m., at the Community Center.