Submitted by Suanne Z. Thamm
Reporter – News Analyst
April 28, 2021
Fernandina Beach City Manager Dale Martin formed a Beach Access Committee (BAC) in November 2020 to study the City’s beach accesses and develop recommendations to the Fernandina Beach City Commission (FBCC) on the following:
1. Of the six walkovers removed in 2019, which ones are recommended to be re-built.
2. Identify any additional new walkovers that should be constructed.
3. Recommend the sequence to construct the walkovers.
The BAC developed 22 Guiding Principles or criteria to evaluate each beach access. Each Guiding Principle was rated on a scale of importance by the Committee members and assigned a weighted value. A second metric was developed using the number of residences within proximity to each access, as determined from “911” information, divided by the overall length of the access, measured from its starting point landward to the foredune.
From this analysis, and other processes, the BAC recommended replacing the six walkovers removed in 2019 following an engineering study and constructing two new walkovers that are currently walkthroughs. The Committee further recommended that no existing walkovers be removed at this time.
The BAC recommended the following timeline and sequence for walkover construction based on budget availability and future conditions dictated by hurricanes and storms:
Short-term (1-2 years) Construction of accesses 6N and 40
Medium-term (3-4 years) Construction of accesses 6, 16, 4N and 35S
Long-term (after 4 years) Construction of accesses 27 and 38
BAC Chair Victoria Robas presented the committee’s report entitled Construction and Maintenance Recommendations at City Beach Accesses to the FBCC at their April 20, 2021 Regular Meeting. The report, which represents 6 months of study and analysis by a group of people with long expressed interest in the City’s beaches, consists of 25 pages, replete with information on methodology, photos, engineering drawings and charts. Additionally the appendix contains 24 additional references to materials BAC used in its analysis. [The entire report is available on the City’s website: http://fbfl.us/DocumentCenter/View/22412/Beach-Access-Committee-Final-Report-April-2021?bidId=. The BAC presentation is also available on the website at http://fbfl.us/DocumentCenter/View/22413/BAC-Presentation-to-City-Commission-on-April-20-2021?bidId=]
The BAC Committee consisted of Chair Robas and the following members: Bryn Byron, Emily Carmain, Mac Morriss, Robert Prager, Mark Tomes, Tom Yankus, Charles George (COFB), Lorelei Jacobs (COFB), and Joe Pitcheralle (COFB).
Robas presented to the FBCC the Report Highlights:
- No existing walkovers should be removed at this time.
- Eight walkovers were recommended for short, medium and long-term construction.
- Two accesses were previously unknown to be City property and should be added to City’s beach access inventory and marked with City signs.
- The south end is recommended to receive an ADA accessible walkover.
- Over time, the City should transition to walkovers with ramps to deter pedestrian cut-throughs.
- Installation of post & rope guidelines and sand fencing is critical to support foredune growth and protect homes and City infrastructure.
“Everybody didn’t get what they wanted,” Robas said in conclusion. “Everyone has their own idea on beach accesses and where they should be. But I can tell you that at the end of the day the recommendations were made unanimously by the committee. We submit these recommendations in the hope that they will be useful to you gentlemen and perhaps to future City Commissions and City management and planners.”
Commissioners extended their gratitude to the BAC members for their detailed work. Mayor Mike Lednovich thanked BAC Members for doing “exactly what you delivered.”
“You are all to be complimented for the time, effort and passion that you’ve put into these recommendations and the thoughtfulness,” Lednovich said. “You were very methodical, and now we have a schematic on how to proceed. I want to thank all of you for your efforts.”
The Mayor’s compliments were followed by a round of applause for the committee.
City Manager Martin asked Commissioners to share the report widely in preparation for its return to the Commission for action on May 18.
Not everyone in the audience concurred with the report’s recommendations. Two members of the public disagreed with some of the rankings, especially delaying work on BAC 27, claiming that it is not safe and should not wait 4 years for attention.
The City Manager agreed to conduct a safety check on BAC 27 and report back to the FBCC.