Guest commentary: Help us keep Vanderbilt Beach open to residents

Last May, Keep Our Beaches Open (KOBO) formed to monitor conditions on Vanderbilt Beach.

Comprised of concerned citizens, we distributed fliers in Naples Park and on Vanderbilt Beach, and we are in touch with people around Collier County.

We learned that many Naples Park residents avoided the beach last season because of parking shortages, crowded beach conditions and inadequate restrooms.

In May, Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), which oversees public beaches, surveyed the beach that borders the Ritz-Carlton, Naples.

While the resort embellished a media spin about its northern boundary, the DEP actually came to mark its western boundary. There is now a marker in the sand at the western boundary of the Ritz-Carlton’s beach. The public is welcome to enjoy the considerable sand to the west of this marker.

Recently, the county suggested charging residents for beach parking. In light of a countywide uproar, commissioners temporarily took the plan off the table.

Conner Park is being expanded to add approximately 78 parking spaces. This is a net increase of approximately 60 spaces because the county is planning to take out the 18 free spaces near the entrance to Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park in order to have room for a turnabout, four restrooms and a walkover to the beach.

Plans will go before the Collier County commissioners; work on this long-overdue project might begin near the end of 2010.

When asked why so few spaces are planned, Marla Ramsey, administrator of the county’s Public Services Division, said the county determined this number is sufficient. She said the county is requesting that Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park provide 200 additional spaces, and added that park attendants regularly close the gate before it’s filled to capacity.

A Florida State Parks administrator in Tallahassee said he knows of no such plan, and noted that because thousands of people walk into the park each year from Vanderbilt Beach, determining the park’s capacity involves more than counting cars.

One solution to beach crowding would be to distribute the crowd. Ramsey suggested Naples Park residents would put less stress on the parking garage if they were to ride bikes and use the six public-access points on Gulfshore Drive.

While biking is not feasible for many, these public-access points provide an excellent means for beachgoers to visit empty stretches of sand for pleasant walks along the water.

Many residents moved to Naples because of the beaches and want to preserve a good thing. Please e-mail or call or (239) 287-1196 so we can continue to develop a database and keep you informed.

Naples Park resident Mary Lou Smart is a freelance writer. She has lived near Vanderbilt Beach since 1990.

© 2009 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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