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Date of Issue: June 28, 2007

Boating speed at Bean Point questioned

"Someone's going to get hit and killed out here," said Anna Maria resident Charles Daniel, as he stood on the beach at Bean Point and looked to the water.

As if on cue, a motorboat cut around the northern end of the Island, between the shore and a sandbar that's an easy swim from the beach.

Daniel, a frequent visitor to Bean Point, wants Manatee County to require boats to slow down on the edge of Bean Point, where people often swim or, at low tide, wade out to the sandbar.

He is not the first person to contact county officials about the issue, according to Bill O'Shea, coastal programs manager for the county's conservation lands management department.

In 2004, the county adopted a boating safety ordinance that provided for a slow/no-wake zone within 300 yards of the shoreline at Bean Point. The ordinance also provided for a speed limit of 25 miles per hour in the channel at Bean Point.

During the public review of the ordinance three years ago, the county received many requests from boaters pushing for the 25-mph speed zone.

"A lot of boaters don't want to be forced way out," O'Shea said.

When the speed limit was set, the channel along Bean Point from Tampa Bay to the Gulf of Mexico extended several hundred yards from the beach. Now a large sandbar exists, narrowing the channel and forcing boats closer to shore, sometimes within 15 yards.

Daniel said he witnessed some close calls at Bean Point this past spring, with boats coming too close to swimmers.

So, he is calling on the county to take emergency action and "for the time being initiate a slow/no wake zone along the Beach Point beach area."

Daniel said his request makes sense - changes in road conditions force emergency changes in speed limits.

"I am sure that if this area were a two- or four-lane highway and a landslide or other situation narrowed the width of existing lanes, the posted speed limit would be greatly decreased for public safety," he said. "That is the same logical resolution for this situation."

O'Shea said any change in the speed limit would require a vote of the board of county commissioners.

"There's no quick fix," he said last week.

However, county officials are working on other changes to the boating safety ordinance that may be taken up in August. So, if a change is deemed necessary at Bean Point, it could be folded into the pending revision, O'Shea said.

County officials planned to meet with Anna Maria City officials July 11 to discuss the issue.

He noted that while some people have raised concerns about boating at Bean Point, others have raised concerns about swimming at Bean Point.

"There are people who think that with the rip-tides it is not really a safe place to go swimming," O'Shea said, adding that navigating a solution to residents' concerns would "be a balancing act."