Lee County starts unveiling plans, improvements for Fort Myers Beach park

A new Lee County park on Fort Myers Beach could see its first improvements before the end of the year, according to the town’s Mayor Larry Kiker.

State approvals could come in this week paving the way for removing part of a failing seawall along its gulf front, planting grass and installing shell trails as well as adding a couple of handicapped parking spaces.

This first round of improvements is expected to cost about $150,000 and the bigger picture for the property could include Tiki huts or other shelter structures.

The design, unveiled Monday to a group of town and county officials, was on target, Kiker said.

“I think they’ve done a real nice job, they listened to the town,” Kiker said.

Lee County acquired the property earlier this year as part of a larger, $5.6 million deal that included the vacant Seafarer’s Village building. Investors had a $35 million loan on the property that eventually went back to the bank.

The county planned to raze the building and add another 50 parking spots to relieve some of the parking congestion on the popular tourist island.

Fort Myers Beach indicated interest in buying the building, which County Commissioner Ray Judah estimated would cost about $1 million, including costs to close the deal.

“It’s going to require some creative solutions,” Judah said.

Talks have yet to begin but staff negotiators were named Monday.

Fort Myers Beach cannot take on significant debt for longer than three years, according to the town charter. But Kiker said there may be several options for buying the property, such as amending the charter’s debt provision.

But the town could benefit from owning the building, Kiker said, because it would then own property on both sides of a street prone to bottlenecked traffic.

Owning that real estate would mean a say in what’s done near the road.

“One might think if you widen the road, it might help that bottleneck,” Kiker said.

Connect with Tara E. McLaughlin at www.naplesnews.com/staff/tara-mclaughlin/

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