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Date of Issue: September 21, 2006

Waterfront successes, hardships described

waterfront group pic
Members of the Waterfronts Florida program took a break from the two-day meetings for a tour of the 1912-Cortez Schoolhouse. Islander Photo: Paul Roat

No matter whether it is Baghdad - Florida, that is - or Fernandina Beach or Daytona Beach or even Bradenton Beach, the issues are pretty much the same for the various projects involved in the Waterfronts Florida program:

A problem getting attendance at meetings.

Program managers from throughout the state met in Bradenton Beach for two days last week to discuss problems and learn of techniques to develop, protect or preserve the waterfronts in the various areas represented. Bradenton Beach was named as a part of the program earlier this year.

The Waterfronts Florida Program is a two-year exercise administered by the Florida Department of Community affairs. DCA officials offer technical support and $50,000 to aid communities in their waterfront needs through a visioning process, funding for printed materials and other support.

Cortez was one of the first recipients of the state designation several years ago, as was Cedar Key, both commercial fishing communities hit hard by the 1995 Constitutional amendment that banned inshore gill-net fishing. Without the gill netting for fish, much of the commercial fishing industries in those and other cities collapsed.

Dr. Michael Jepson, of the University of Florida, and Carlton Ward Jr. created a video outlining the problems Cortez and Cedar Key faced after the net ban. As Heath Davis of Cedar Key put it of the ban, "We ain’t gonna get over it. It’s like somebody killed somebody in your family. We won’t ever get over it."

Davis, a multi-generation commercial net fisher, said that although the clamming industry has taken off in the waters off Cedar Key, the charm of fishing has been lost. Clamming is back-breaking work, he said, suitable only for the young. "You won’t see very many old clam fishermen," he said.

He also said that the heritage of commercial fishing has been lost. The days of old and young alike sitting on the dock at the end of a day, talking about fishing past and future, have come to an end.

Jepson said that he has noted a change in waterfront communities to what he called the "www" syndrome - white, wealthy and well-educated, all living along the coasts and many somewhat disdainful of commercial fishing.

Bradenton Beach developer David Teitelbaum echoed some of Jepson’s comments. He said that Florida, and Bradenton Beach, is evolving into a community with a small number of permanent residents and a growing number of wealthy part-time people who come to the Island for a few months at a time, usually in the winter.

Parking is a growing problem, he said, although the Manatee Trolley and planned sidewalks should keep people out of their cars and walking or on bikes to ease traffic congestion and parking woes.

Bradenton Beach Vice Mayor Lisa Marie Phillips offered the group a re-cap of a day-long seminar hosted in Bradenton Beach earlier this year by Dan Burden on walkable communities and the need for more public open space.

"Public places are the front porches for government," she said. "They bring more business to communities, but they have to be designed correctly. The waterfront is often the face of a city, and it needs public art that is both functional and fun."

Tom Ankersen, also a UF professor, spoke to the group. He explained that the Florida Legislature has adopted new laws that encourage "waterfront planning" within comprehensive plans. Among the changes is the inclusion of hotels and motels in the "water-dependent use" category.

Access is also to be preserved, he said.

Ankersen, who is assisting Bradenton Beach in the development of a controlled mooring field in Anna Maria Sound just south of the city pier off Bridge Street, added that the city is unique in another way - the mooring field is the only one in Florida that was created through an act of the Legislature earlier this year.

Included in the two-day conference were tours of Anna Maria Island, featuring the walk through of the Anna Maria Island Historical Museum, and the Village of Cortez. Roger Allen, the head of the Gulf Coast Maritime Museum, described the activities that have been on-going there since the village was named a part of Waterfronts Florida.

Among the areas showcased were the commercial fishing docks, the statue commemorating fishermen paid for by the waterfronts program, and the 1912-schoolhouse.

The next Bradenton Beach Waterfronts: Accessible, Viable, Ecological and Sustainable Committee meeting is scheduled for 4 p.m. Sept. 27.