Improving Beach Access at Marco Island

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Beachgoers on Marco Island will enjoy newly renovated and improved beach access points thanks to a project the town’s Beautification Advisory Committee is working on.

Marco Island City Council asked the committee earlier this year to look at the appearance of the island’s two public beach access corridors and find ways to accommodate the growing number of visitors while still taking the opportunity to increase education and awareness of the region’s unique ecosystem.

“It will be a win-win project because often our committee comes up with an idea and it doesn’t necessarily come from the request of the city council,” said Sherri Connelly, chair of the Beautification Advisory Committee, said. “It’s going to be a mix because it’s something they saw a great need for and now we’re just facilitators.”

On Monday, the committee presented to the board what they wanted for the finished product of the project. These improvements include new landscaping, more bicycle parking, improved lighting and increased signage information.

Although the committee is in charge of the project, other local organizations will participate in the beautification of the corridors. The Botanical of Naples Garden will help identify the best plants for the area, as they recently signed a memorandum of understanding with the city to help with landscaping projects.

“[The botanical gardens] came to our meeting and said they would be very interested in working with us to plant the right kind of native plants for the area based on lighting, soil and water needs,” Connelly said.

Local art is another main aspect of the project, with plans for bare concrete walls that will soon be covered in murals. Students in Lorenzo Walker’s Welding Technology program will build uniquely designed bike racks by local artists.

“We are always supportive of using our local vendors and artists and it’s very important to support local people, but I don’t know how. [council] going to tackle the murals,” Connelly said.

This project will confront the fact that the two access points do not provide lighting for night walks to and from the beach. If a low light is installed, visitors can feel safer and the dune system on the beach ensures that sea turtles will not be disturbed from nesting.

“People will be coming off the beach at sunset or people will be walking on the beach at night, you need to have it lighted for safety,” Connelly said. “We are concerned not only about the value of its appearance, but we also want to keep it safe for people.”

Marco Island Councilor Becky Irwin is a former member of the Beautification Advisory Committee and fully supports the project. For her, one of the most important aspects is using signage to let visitors know what they can expect to see at the island’s beaches.

“We really want to improve the information we provide on the panels, not about what you can’t do, but about what you’re about to experience,” Irwin said. “In addition to being unique in Florida, [Marco Island] is unique in many ways.

The committee would like to add signs not only about local wildlife, but what can be found around all of Marco Island, as well as proper beach etiquette and what to do to ensure the safety of sea turtles and resting birds.

At last Monday’s city council meeting, Irwin mentioned a recent citizen survey that showed many residents feel a lack of beach access. She asked city staff to consider adding another corridor between the residents’ private beach and county-owned Tigertail Beach so people can walk or bike there.

The Beautification Committee is now focused on finding designers, architects and preparing a formal proposal for City Council to approve funding. This project will hopefully encourage full-time residents and newcomers to Marco Island to respect the beaches.

“I think the longer you keep something good the more pleasing it is to the eye, and people walk across that bridge to get to the beach and they see this phenomenal view, it kind of encourages people to do what it takes,” Connelly said.

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