REDINGTON SHORES – At the urging of residents, the Town Commission unanimously agreed to ask the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission to declare the town’s large cove a no-wake zone. The cove, which is located along Gulf Boulevard by the Seabreeze restaurant, is frequented by manatees, dolphins and other endangered wildlife.
The action came at the commission’s July 25 workshop, following impassioned pleas from some residents who live on the cove.
“We live on the cove and we have wonderful manatee pods that come through, beginning in May, and they stay about six months,” said Denise Vought, a town resident.
She said there are manatees that come around her dock and sleep there overnight, and she has seen babies born.
“The problem is the jet skis and speed boats come in and are just flying through the cove, so fast that the waves actually come crashing over our seawall,” said Vought.
Don Vought, Denise’s husband, said the manatees hang out in the deeper water.
“They just sit there, and we know they can’t move fast enough to get out of the way (of the boats),” Vought said.
Vought said she recently overheard a conversation from people waterskiing behind a boat. One said he thinks he may have hit a sand bar. And Vought said she thought “you hit a manatee, and my heart just sank.”
“(The manatees and dolphins) use the bay as a breeding ground,” said Tim Nachman, a cove resident and businessman.
Several people mentioned serious accidents that happened on that body of water about 10 years ago, when a girl was killed in a water skiing accident and a separate incident resulting in serious injury to a boater.
Denise Vought told the commission, “We want to see the entire cove designated a no-wake zone, to protect the manatees and wildlife.”
She said the entry to the cove from the Intracoastal Waterway says “No-Wake Zone,” but a few yards in says, “Resume Normal Speed.”
Vought said she had spoken with Florida Fish and Wildlife officials and was told the cove is a personal cove and is under the town’s jurisdiction as well as theirs.
Following the commission’s agreement to request the entire cove be designated a no-wake zone, Town Clerk Mary Palmer said she is working with Florida Fish and Wildlife to get that done.
“I don’t know if that’s possible,” Palmer said.
But the Voughts and others who live on the cove and spoke at the meeting are, in Denise Vought’s words, “counting on you with all our heart to make (the no-wake zone) happen.”
Old Town Hall lot to be ‘resident parking only’
Residents looking for a place to park and go to the beach on weekends and holidays usually find the town parking lot on the old Town Hall site full by 9 a.m., Commissioner Jeff Neal said.
The lot currently allows free parking for all comers.
Neal recommended limiting parking on the old town hall lot to residents, by permit only, on weekends and holidays.
“We need to try something” to solve the problem, and give town residents access to the beach, Neal said.
Vice Mayor Tom Kapper said businesses also need places for their customers to park, and limiting the old town hall lot to residents could deny parking to patrons of the town’s restaurants and other businesses.
But Mayor Mary Beth Henderson said businesses are required to provide adequate parking for their customers.
“It is not the town’s responsibility to have parking for businesses,” she said.
Having some metered parking for visitors along with free parking for residents to generate some income to the town was also discussed. But Neal said parking meters are expensive, costing around $8,000. With revenue expected of about $500 a year, metered parking would take a number of years to be profitable, Neal pointed out.
Commission members discussed a number of options for the lot, before deciding to limit the parking to residents, who would display a permit available at Town Hall, and be in effect seven days a week.
Visitors wanting to go to the beach will have to find parking elsewhere. The mayor said Redington Shores has more free parking available to visitors than other beach communities.