More than $1M in improvements coming to Tigertail Beach Park on Marco Island

A Tigertail Beach Cafe sign reflects on water at the Tigertail Beach Park on July 6, 2020.

A new upper-level deck next to the the food concessions area, new playground attractions and additional restrooms are some of the improvements coming to Tigertail Beach Park on Marco Island totaling more than $1 million.

The projects will be mostly funded using Tourist Development Tax dollars, a 5% charge on hotel and other short-term rental stays, said Barry Williams, director of Collier County Parks and Recreation Department. He said the overall purpose of the project is to keep park facilities up to date.

The total tourist tax revenue for the fiscal period of Oct.1, 2018, through Aug. 30 of last year was $27,718,038 while the revenue of Oct. 1 of last year through Aug. 30 was $24,900,791, a 10.2% difference, wrote Debby Thornton with the Tourist Tax Department of the Collier County Tax Collector.

The revenue reduction will not have an adverse effect on these projects because they "were already funded," Williams said.

The park received 158,462 visitors in fiscal year 2019 resulting in $366,993 gross revenue from parking fees, according to Williams. Fiscal year 2019 ran from Oct. 1, 2018 to Sept. 30 of last year.

In fiscal year 2018, the park received 189,652 visitors.

The most expensive project, budgeted for $690,000, consists of the replacement of walkway decks and ramps, landscaping, bathroom renovations and new automatic park entrance gates, Williams said.

An upper level deck next to the concession, new playground attractions and new restrooms are some of the improvements coming to Tigertail Beach Park on Marco Island.

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The section of the boardwalk near the food concession area will be replaced with Brazilian hardwood to match other sections that have been replaced in previous years, Williams said.

"The boardwalk that we are replacing is probably 25-years-old," he said.

The restrooms near the food concession, used by park rangers, will be renovated with new fixtures and tile and they have not been updated in 20 years, he said.

The project's design is more than half-way done but construction won't begin until April or May of next year to avoid constructing during high season, Williams said. It was originally scheduled to be completed by summer of this year but the COVID-19 pandemic "diverted" the attention of the department.

The construction is expected to be completed by the end of next year, Williams said.

A second project budgeted for $210,000 includes new playground facilities with a shade structure to replace the existing ones, he said.  

"We will remove every bit of what is there and replace everything brand-new," he said.

The playground will be installed this month and the shade structure in October, Williams said. Funds from Collier County Community Foundation will cover the majority of the costs associated with the shade structure which will cost about $10,000.

Williams attributed the delay in installing the new playground, which was originally planned for spring of this year, to COVID-19.

A county inspection from June found some of the playground structure has rust, a document shows. 

"The useful life of these playgrounds in Florida, especially in coastal environments, is about 15 years," Williams said.

A third project budgeted for $275,000 includes building new male and female restrooms in the parking lot extension, Williams said. The current restroom facility in that area only has a unisex restroom structure which will become a "family restroom" following the completion of the project.

Williams said the construction of the restrooms should begin in October and end in early February.

Some of the park's needs were identified by Friends of Tigertail Beach, Williams said. FTB is a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation and protection of Tigertail Beach through education, advocacy and cleanups.

Linda Colombo, board president of the organization, wrote in an email July 30 that FTB requested the extension of the bathroom facilities in the back parking lot. Colombo said FTB did not request the replacement of the playground facilities or the renovation of the restrooms near the food concessionaire.

Colombo wrote the FTB also requested better parking signage to let visitors know there is an extended parking lot available for people who want to park closer to the Gulf instead of the lagoon. The organization does not recommend crossing the lagoon on foot to go to the Gulf because it could be hazardous, she wrote.

People still come to the first parking lot and then get upset when they realize they need to walk around the lagoon to get to the Gulf "which can be a long walk with kids and equipment," Colombo wrote. 

"That's the first time I've heard of that." Williams said Sept. 2. "I think we would be open to that."

Williams said 4,434 vehicles turned around and did not park in fiscal year 2019.

Sometimes visitors are exploring the area but do not want to enter the park and sometimes visitors do not want to pay the $8 parking fee, he said.

Colombo said the county has responded to some FTB's previous requests like building the original bathroom structure in the extended parking lot and adding more benches in the food concession area and the exit points of the boardwalk.

The park made headlines in July when a paddleboard and kayak rental stand on the park shut down after decades in business following unresolved disputes with the county. The county expects to have a vendor at Tigertail by January 2021 to provide food and beach rental services, Williams said in July.

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