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Date of Issue: January 21, 2009

City introduces conceptual mooring field

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A conceptual plan for Bradenton Beach's mooring field.

A preliminary plan for Bradenton Beach’s mooring field got a test cruise Jan. 15 and it proved buoyant.

The city, in partnership with Scheda Ecological Associates, hosted a public meeting on its effort to draft a master recreational boating plan. The city, with a state grant, hired Scheda to help research and write the plan.

Mostly boaters attended the meeting, which also attracted a few city officials and a few waterfront property owners.

In the commission room at city hall, Wendy Hershfeld with Scheda showed the audience an aerial photograph of the proposed mooring field south of the Historic Bridge Street Pier. The display showed a rectangular area, the mooring field, with small circles depicting mooring locations for vessels of various sizes.

Hershfeld emphasized the preliminary nature of the design.

“It will change,” she said.

The design will change based on the comments of boaters and others interested in creating the mooring field. And the design will change during the review process with the state.

To create the conceptual plan, Scheda reviewed existing studies of the area, as well as conducted some field surveys.

“We have done some preliminary investigating, looking at the seagrasses outside the area,” Hershfeld said. “We looked at water depths, distance from the channel.”

The preliminary mooring field area measures about 14 acres, according to Lisa Marie Phillips, the city’s project/program director. And the conceptual plan contains about 40 mooring sites.

When several boaters said the number seemed optimistic, Hershfeld replied, “That’s the thing about permitting, you want to go in with as much as possible. Our strategy is we are going to be as optimistic as we can.”

Phillips and Hershfeld also reviewed the amenities that boaters would find with the creation of a mooring field. In addition to the rest rooms and showers already on the pier, the city plans to open a harbor master office, create a laundry facility and pump-out station and renovate its dinghy dock.

“I understand the desire for this and I understand the need for this,” said boater Wes Waldrope. He urged the city not to make the mooring opportunities too expensive for those who live on their boats out of financial necessity or for way of life.

Phillips encouraged Waldrope and other boaters to join a steering committee to help develop the plan, as well as propose rules and regulations for the mooring field.

“I really appreciate what you town officials are doing in the interests of us and in the interests of the environment,” said boater Mark Thomson, who signed up for the committee. He said the plan must meet the needs of different types of boaters — liveaboards who tend to stay put, liveaboards who sail about and transient sailors.

“It’s great that you are forward looking on this,” Thomson said.

There was consensus among the group that the city’s timing may prove crucial because the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is proposing legislation this year on anchoring and mooring.

The legislation, according to the FWC’s boating and waterways division, is intended to clean up the statutes and clean up the state’s waters. The legislation also would allow the state to enforce tighter restrictions on where boaters can anchor and how long they can stay in a spot.

“Whoever does not have an established mooring field will have to fall under the most stringent state regulations,” Phillips said.

The next meeting on the boating plan has not been scheduled. However, the city commission is scheduled to discuss the mooring field and an interim policy for the area during a meeting at 1 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 22.