REDINGTON SHORES – The circular body of water that sits off the Intracoastal Waterway here, known as “the cove,” will remain status quo in regard to boating speed.
Several waterski enthusiasts filled Town Hall on Sept. 26 and got their wish when town officials unanimously decided to not enact a no-wake zone for the small bay, which is located off Del Bello Park just south of 180th Street East.
“It’s one of the reasons we live here,” said resident Matt Betancourt after the decision. “We want to teach our kids how to water ski in a safe place.”
Fellow resident Mark Vanscyoc also expressed relief.
“We don’t want to be forced out into the channel,” he said. “That body of water (the cove) is one of the few left untouched.”
Betancourt said teaching a child to water ski in the channel would be like “teaching a child to ride a bike on a highway.”
At the urging of some residents back in July, manatee protection was among the issues that prompted the town to consider the change. But after reviewing a Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission study that was conducted in 2016 and implemented in 2017, Commissioner Michael Robinson reported “there’s no compelling evidence” that would suggest the area be designated for protection. He recommended that no change occur.
Mayor MaryBeth Henderson noted she researched the issue with officials in Indian Shores where the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Department has a police-boat station, and they report no incidents in which boats have harmed manatees in the past six years.
Human safety was another concern.
“It’s dangerous for kayakers,” said Gail Conroy, who has lived along the cove since 1989. “There are no warning signs that say it’s not a no-wake zone.”
She said there is little space to operate between a shallow area and residents’ seawalls.
“I once had a guy hit my seawall,” Conroy said. “It just doesn’t seem that safe.”
Conroy said the area was once a no-wake zone, but Commissioner Jeff Neal, also a longtime resident, said he didn’t recall that being the case.
Neal did agree that navigating the depths in the cove can be tricky.
“I’ve hit that sandbar a couple of times,” he said, but supported the town’s lack of action “unless more data comes our way” that could change his mind.
Robinson said the decision was based upon the facts.
“We’ve heard a lot from both sides and there’s been plenty of emotion with this, but you have to take emotion out of the equation,” he said.
Added Henderson, in noting the large turnout of opponents to a change, “This is a town that does what the people want.”