INDIAN ROCKS BEACH — The beautifying of the beach accesses has begun.
The city prides itself on having easy access to the beach for residents and visitors alike. It provides by far the most accesses of all the beach communities. There are 27, and at each one is a small amount of free parking.
Over time, the accesses have become, as Mayor Cookie Kennedy has said, “cluttered,” and officials believe it is time to clean it up.
The clutter is mostly signs. As each new demand arose, such as keeping the beach clean, new noise restrictions or the prohibition of dogs on the beach, there came the need for a new sign to proclaim it. Now, all those signs will be removed with everything explained on one single sign.
In addition to that, new bike racks will be installed. The racks, in the form of a dolphin, will enable bicyclists to chain their bikes while they are at the beach.
City Manager Gregg Mims said there is even more than that.
“We are replacing the electric pedestrian lights with solar lights,” he said. “We are basically going to overhaul our beach accesses. Over the years, things have been added, and we wanted to make things more consistent.
“The old signs will all be going. The message can get confusing with so many signs in one place,” he said.
Kennedy said she was thrilled with what was happening at the accesses.
“I call it getting rid of sign pollution,” she said. “We went from several signs to just one. It looks clean and gives our accesses a bit of a face lift. I think it is beautiful.”
The first bike rack has already been installed at the 27th Avenue access and next week the first sign will be installed at the 24th Avenue access. In all, it will take two years to complete, mainly due to the installation of the lights.
The idea of having so many beach accesses and free parking came up recently at a visioning session at City Hall. Some residents complained that the accesses were drawing people from all over Pinellas County who came to IRB because it was free.
Mims said he did not perceive that changing things was what most people wanted.
“A number of those accesses were built with state grants, which dictate that whatever happens at an access must apply to all,” he said. “If we started to charge for parking, we would have to charge for all, including residents. I don’t see that changing.
“We are two and a half miles of road along the beach and we have more access than anybody else,” he said. “We consider it part of our park system and we are proud of them.”
City officials are hoping beach attendees take the time to read the new signs once they are installed. Among the items addressed is the annual sea turtle nesting season from May 1 to October 1. Visitors are asked to steer clear of turtle nests, which are clearly marked by volunteers who walk the beach regularly.
Beachgoers are also encouraged not to litter.