County Commissioner provides City Council, residents with updates

Samantha Roesler
A dock at Caxambas Park on Marco Island, photographed on Wednesday, January 27, 2021.

County Commissioner for District 1, Rick LoCastro, provided an update for the Marco Island City Council and residents Monday night. The commissioner confronted issues expressed to him from locals of the island and voiced the county’s efforts in making solutions.

LoCastro began his update by focusing on Caxambas Park, which has increasingly been the center of complaints for lack of parking and traffic control. Collier County has recently instituted a dockmaster to control the flow and enforce parking permits, but LoCastro realizes that there are still issues at the park. At the end of last month, the county sent Marco Island staff a site development proposal on how parking can be redone but has not made its way to City Council yet.

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Restoring Tigertail beach was next in LoCastro’s update, particularly trying to sort out the concessionaire situation on the beach.

“It’s no secret that Tony Smith was the long-time concessionaire at Tigertail, his contract with the county ended in not a way that I’d be proud of if I was in office at the time,” LoCastro said. “But we’re trying to undo some of those things of the past.”

According to LoCastro, the county is weighing options on how to improve the beachgoer’s experience at Tigertail.

Sunset at Tigertail beach, Marco Island.

“We're taking a look at what is happening there now and how we can elevate the customer service there either with the current concessionaire or what we're taking a look at is maybe mutually ending that contract because I'm not so sure that concessionaires happy with the lack of business out there, and seeing what we can provide at Tigertail,” LoCastro said. “As a minimum, we want to be able to provide water and rental equipment and things like that and have a great operation at the at the main gate for parking.”

The county has put signs at Goodland Bridge that state it is illegal to camp overnight at the site due to complaints of people pulling off to the side of the road in the evening.

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“If you’re doing that for an emergent reason, that’s one thing,” LoCastro said. “But if you’re basically using that area as a campground and then leaving all your litter, we’ve installed those signs recently and we’ll be patrolling it frequently to make sure at dusk people exit there and we don’t have a whole bunch of folks either running businesses out of there, which was an issue as well, or overnight camping.”

There will soon be a mobility mat at South Beach for wheelchairs to get closer to the water. The county has aimed to get 189 feet of mat approved by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). The county got 150 feet immediately approved, with 50 feet allowed to stay 24/7 and 100 feet to be removed during turtle season. FWC has approved the extra 39 feet, but the DEP is still going back and forth with the county.

LoCastro mentioned improvement plans to the South Beach crosswalk from the parking lot to the beach which crosses over Collier Blvd.

A man rents a kayak at Tigertail Beach Park on July 6, 2020.

“You know, you can sit here, and debate does the county own it, does the city own it, we’re going to make command decisions,” LoCastro said. “Certainly, that crosswalk isn’t a $10 million project, so let’s just do it. In the end it’s all one big pot of money if you really look at it that way.”

Part of the design, which is 60% finalized, adds more lighting and requires some trenching and pulling power to the area.

“A lot of people that are using that beach access mat are finding our parking in that county lot, people with wheelchairs, moms and dads with strollers and handicapped folks, so we want to make sure that is the safest crosswalk,” LoCastro said.

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Trash on the beach is something that LoCastro said he gets a considerable number of emails for, and he expressed that it’s the beachgoer that also has a duty to keep the beach clean.

“One of the things I tell citizens is you know, if you see somebody’s trash and then walk away, that’s like watching somebody break into a car and saying somebody should call a cop,” LoCastro said. “You have to do something about it. We all have a responsibility.”

County Commissioner Rick LoCastro holds the floor. The Marco Island City Council and the Board of County Commissioners of Collier County held a joint meeting Tuesday in the commission chambers at the Collier County Government Center, discussing issues including Tigertail Beach erosion and Caxambas Park overcrowding.

LoCastro provided an update on the potential food truck park that would have been built on Isles of Capri. The county’s planning board recommended approval of the food truck park on housing property, but the county commissioners voted unanimously against that recommendation. The applicant filed a special hearing to go in front of a special magistrate to have the vote overturned, which was supposed to be this week.

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“I’m here to tell you that the applicant has pulled their request to have a special meeting so now the case is fully dead,” LoCastro said. “I think the reason they pulled it is because of the cooperation and the cohesion between the citizens and the case we made about putting safety first and noise issues.”

The next Marco Island City Council meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m, April 18.