Over the boardwalk: Work under way to improve Tigertail Beach access

Greg Kahn/Staff
A bird snatches a fish from the water at Tigertail Beach on Marco Island on Nov. 26, 2011.

Photo by GREG KAHN // Buy this photo

Greg Kahn/Staff A bird snatches a fish from the water at Tigertail Beach on Marco Island on Nov. 26, 2011.

— Barry Williams wants to let you in on a secret – and Collier County is spending three quarters of a million dollars to help you check it out.

"Tigertail Beach is one of the most beautiful beaches in Collier County, and one of the best-kept secrets," he said. "It's an amazing natural resource, where you're surrounded by the wild."

Williams, parks and recreation director for Collier County government, knows a little about area beaches.

Most Collier beaches, the ones you don't need a boat to reach, have streets and buildings, or often high-rise condos, directly behind. But Tigertail, comprising the northwest corner of Marco Island, offers a diverse ecosystem of dunes, lagoons and the open Gulf.

The flip side of that pristine beauty is that Tigertail Beach requires a little more walking to get to, and Collier County government is working to make that access easier. The county is spending about $750,000 to replace the existing boardwalks at Tigertail, and add one new dune walkover. The work on the existing structures is essentially maintenance, but the new access point will offer a new, quicker path to the Gulf of Mexico from the park.

In a move that seems counter-intuitive, the plans have workers pulling up boardwalks made from recycled plastic, and installing actual wood planking, but the new material will make for a more durable and safer access to the beach, said Gary McAlpin, director of coastal zone management for the county.

"The wear surfaces (planking) and handrails are made from ipe, a Brazilian hardwood that's hard-wearing and very dense," he said. "It's sustainably harvested, so this is a green project. We're using this around the county because it's so functional."

The substructure will be a weather-resistant plastic, reinforced with fiberglass rods, in place of the pressure-treated lumber pilings currently installed.

The old boardwalks needed to be replaced, said Debbie Roddy, president of the Friends of Tigertail Beach, a citizens support organization dedicated to preserving and protecting the beach.

Saturday morning, while coordinating a quarterly beach cleanup, she pointed out cracks and voids in the plastic decking, and spoke of a slip-and-fall hazard.

"The plastic was really slick when it got wet," she said. "I think it's great they're being replaced."

The boardwalk going from the kiosk by the concession stand to the lagoon was cordoned off, with the decking removed, and crews from contractor 2SW of Atlanta were working on stripping two more. The work is being done in stages, McAlpin said, with half of the crossings to be completed before the other half are disturbed.

"When those are done, we'll do the others," he said. "Any time you're working in an area, there's always a little bit of inconvenience, but we don't anticipate significant impact on the public."

Altogether, the project should take about eight months to complete, McAlpin said.

The general contractor is OAC Action, based on Florida's east coast.

Although the work is being paid for with tax dollars, it is not costing Collier County property owners anything. Tourist tax dollars, from a levy added to short-term rentals, are covering the entire cost.

"This is paid for by visitors. Nothing comes out of general revenues," said Jack Wert, president of the Naples, Marco Island, & Everglades Convention and Visitors Bureau. "You need to keep up the product you're offering. We have a separate fund for beach renourishment and beach park facilities, so this doesn't impact our promotional budget."

Having this work done now, he said, is good for both visitors and residents.

New restrooms, budgeted at approximately $100,000, are to be added near the new beach access point, but final approval is contingent on Marco Island city government approval of new federal flood maps.

Admission to Tigertail Beach, via Tigertail Court off of Collier Boulevard on Marco Island, is free with a county or Naples beach parking sticker, or costs $8 per vehicle for those without one.

© 2011 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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