Monday, April 27, 2015

Surfin' Gator?

This is something we don't see very often: an alligator crawling onto the beach from the Gulf.  This bad boy was spotted and snapped down near the Preserve of Don Pedro by Scott Finkbeiner, nephew of residents Ken & Sally Mingerink. So beware!

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Sand Dunes - They Ain’t Just Sand!

 by Jim Gordon
Surf pounding the dune during Hurricane Dennis in 2005.

Islander’s may have noticed that PIE has placed three elevated walkovers over the sand dunes at beach accesses  6, 7 and 12. Some have asked us why PIE is doing that since it was actually easier to reach the beach before placement of the walkovers. Hopefully, this brief article will be helpful in answering that question.  

Sand dunes should not be seen as just a pile of sand to hinder our passage to the seashore. They 
are our first line of defense against 
The dune was breached at Colony Don Pedro.
coastal storms and beach erosion, absorbing the impact of storm surge and high waves and potentially preventing flooding and damage to our homes. 

Driving and walking on the dunes causes deterioration of beach grass and other vegetation that helps to trap and hold the sand in place and if not curbed, can eventually destroy a dune.  This creates a breach in the overall dune system and an easy pathway for even a minor storm surge. 
Flooding behind the dune.

Experience in a number of Florida beach communities has proven that when coastal residents embrace the concept of elevated dune walkovers great strides have been made towards dune preservation (Amelia Island in Northeast Florida is one striking example).  For that reason, PIE has embarked on an effort to place elevated walkovers at our most heavily used beach accesses on Knight and Don Pedro Islands.  

While we still have some electing not to use the walkovers, we are encouraged by an increasing number who are doing so.  As more and more islanders become aware of the value and sensitivity of our dunes, we are confident the walkovers will be used thereby protecting our dunes so that they in turn will protect us.  

Monday, April 20, 2015

Information re. Wheelchair beach access‏

Over the years, there have been questions regarding ADA-compliant, wheelchair-access dune walkovers on the private beach easements.  Jim Gordon, the President of PIE, explains the issue in response to a letter from PIE member Dennis Johnson, who inquired about wheelchair ramps:

April 18, 2015
Dennis Johnson Owner/Broker 
Dennis Johnson Realty LLC
PO Box 3028
Placida, FL. 33946

Dear Dennis,
Thank you for contacting the PIE Board in reference to wheel chair access on PIE constructed dune walkovers.  Actually, the initial design of the walkover currently being constructed at beach access # 7 included ADA compliant wheel chair ramping but this design was rejected by our engineering firm for the following reasons:

Access Width – PIE beach accesses are only 5 feet in width which is reduced to effectively 4 feet after required railings are constructed.  This means that there is not adequate space to turn a wheel chair around to return from the beach.  In addition, once a wheel chair is on the ramp, no other pedestrian traffic would be possible. 

Narrow Beaches   The distance between our dunes and the water’s edge is quite narrow in most areas.  This fact combined with Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) guidelines (see below) presented us with significant obstacles to the inclusion of wheel chair ramps in the walkover design.  

FDEP Guidelines – FDEP has published strict guidelines relating to the construction of dune walkovers.  In addition to protecting the dune and native vegetation this is primarily to decrease the potential for storms interacting with the structure, occupation of sea turtle nesting habitat by the structure, and interference with lateral public beach access.  Specific guidelines which affect wheel chair ramps are:

1. Walkover must be a minimum of 3’ 10” above the highest dune point.
2. Walkover cannot extend further than 10 ‘ beyond beach vegetation.
3. No permanent structure is allowed seaward of the dune or within sea turtle nesting

Our engineering firm concluded that adhering to FDEP guidelines within the confines of our narrow beaches would mean the seaward ramp slope would greatly exceed ADA requirements for wheel chair access and recommended the ramps be replaced with stairs.  Reluctantly, we agreed to this recommendation.  

Thank you again for your message and input on this issue.   You may be aware that Charlotte County controls 5 public beach accesses on the island and gaining ramped walkovers at one or more of these locations may represent an alternative to the PIE accesses.   If you elect to pursue this with the County, please let us know how we can help.  
Warm regards,

Jim Gordon, President
Palm Island Estates Homeowners Association (PIE)
941-268-3299 (cell)

Saturday, April 18, 2015

INFO CENTRAL PRESENTS: Charlotte County Commissioner Bill Truex

    On April 10, 2015 a meeting with commissioner Truex was held at the Palm Island Clubhouse. Approximately 80 persons attended and many items were discussed. 

    Commissioner Truex gave an update of the construction to occur on Placida Road from Rotonda West Blvd. south to the Boca Grande causeway traffic light. The design phase is to be completed this summer and construction will start in the fall. The new design includes a turn lane and a 10’ wide multi-use path.

   Winchester Blvd. construction is proceeding well and is ahead of schedule.

   We were informed that the legislature is in the process of discussing changes to FEMA and the flood plain maps. At present, their thought is to raise the flood elevations 2 or 3’ higher then present. This would put all of us in non-compliance, which would increase our flood insurance rates drastically. Commissioner Truex is presently lobbying to prevent this from happening.

   We were informed that the islanders pay about $6,000,000.00 per year in ad valorum taxes, of which approximately 42% goes to the school board. The rest of the county pays in about $101,000,000.00 per year. These amounts do not reflect what is paid to the MSBU’s.

   The update on Stump Pass/Beach Renourishment was that the permits are expected in May or June and construction will begin with the jetties on the south end of Manasota Key in August or September.

   The fire ISO rating was discussed. This rating is important to us because our fire insurance is based on this rating. To date our island rating has been very poor based largely on the fact we do not have enough pressure or water flow from our hydrants. Since we are now getting water from Englewood Water District, Chief Taylor will test our hydrants soon.

   A pre-bid meeting was held on April 8 in conjunction with a proposal for a construction manager to oversee the proposed work on the island roads. The proposals are due April 21 and the bid will be awarded by the county commissioners some time after that.

    After several requests from the audience, Commissioner Truex stated that he would discuss with the sheriff changing several of the deputy day shifts to night shifts during holiday weekends and spring break.

   A member of the audience stated he was on the Charlotte County Marine Advisory Committee, which is trying to implement a “minimum wake” zone in the barge crossing area for safety reasons.

   A statement was made about safety concerns and the plantings in the road right-of –way on North Gulf Blvd. Commissioner Truex said that this issue will be addressed when a construction manager is selected and included in the island road work project.

   Evacuation of the island was discussed, with the commissioner pointing out that the islanders need to be the first of the county residents to evacuate as it could take up to 70 hrs. for all residents.

written by Linda Cotherman, PIE Director 4/18/2015

INFO CENTRAL: Follow-up with Chief Taylor

Here is our response from Chief Marianne Taylor regarding water pressure and hydrant testing. Just to be clear, I will let her know that Bocilla Water Co. is still our provider but the water source is  Englewood Water Company.
Sally B. Johnson

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: "Taylor, Marianne" <>
Date: Apr 15, 2015 2:56 PM
Subject: RE: Don Pedro Knight Island Palm Island
To: "Sally B Johnson" <>

Good Afternoon Sally,
I very much enjoyed the time spent with the members of PIE. 
Please find below answers to your most recent questions.
1.       It would be a good idea to have a fire flow test completed since you have changed utilities.  Typically the utility company does this.  However, I will send two of our Fire Prevention personnel out to complete the testing next week.  I will let you know the outcome of the testing.
2.       Flushing of the hydrants is the responsibility of the utility company according to Charlotte County Florida-Code of Ordinances, Part III – Land Development and Growth Management.  I do not know what schedule they may have your hydrants on. We are responsible for maintaining vegetation around the hydrants.
Thank you for your questions.  Please do not hesitate to contact me with any additional questions or concerns.
Marianne Taylor
Director, Public Safety
Charlotte County 
office: 941-833-5601 cell: 941-628-5248 fax:  941-833-5630
“To Exceed Expectations in the Delivery of Public Services”

Bulletin from Palm Island Transit

NEW PALM ISLAND TRANSIT PROCEDURE                    April, 2015
Beginning in April PIT will be introducing a Transit Ranger who will check-in and process transactions for vehicles using the car ferry.
The Ranger will be working out of a golf cart, navigating the waiting line on Panama Blvd.
The Ranger will be equipped to process payments using credit & debit, Visa, MasterCard, Discover and Amex cards. 
Our objective is to speed up the boarding process, and allow the mates to focus on the safety of vehicles, and walk-on guests.
In addition to collecting payments; the Ranger will be collecting pass book tickets, punching flex passes, verifying annual passes, and recording activity for those home builders who have contracts.
After being processed by the Ranger you will be given a ticket which you will provide to the mate when your vehicle is in place on the barge.
Later each evening (Depending on Traffic) the Ranger will be shut down and processing will be handled by the mate on the ferry the same way it is presently handled.
Home owners who have guests and service companies coming to their home should follow these guidelines –
     Bring payment to the Transit office prior to the day of arrival. The name will be recorded on the daily arrival list, and provided to the Ranger.
       If you are on the Island you may bring a pass ticket to the mate on the Island side; he will deliver it to the Ranger. This can only be done if the guest/service company is arriving that day. Your name and the name of the guest/service company must be written on the back of the ticket. When delivering a ticket to the ferry mate do not board the vessel until all traffic has finished loading and unloading.
The Transit Company is not responsible for passes that are not used on the specified day, and become lost.
     For owners who are out of the area, and have service needs at their home; arrangements should be made with the service provider directly. If this isn’t possible, you can call the Transit office, and provide payment via credit card. 
All Property owners should encourage their vendors who do business on Don Pedro / Knight Island to purchase their own pass books, and add the fee to their bills. This would reduce your responsibility, and make the system more efficient for all involved.  
As you know we have a web site where prices, hours, and other useful information is posted. We will add this information to the site for your reference.
We believe that these changes will make the Transit system more efficient, safer, and more flexible for our customers; we will continue to explore better and more efficient ways to accommodate a diverse customer base.
Thank you for your cooperation.

Palm Island Transit 

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Bobcat Sighting!

Walking out of my driveway yesterday morning I nearly ran right into this bad boy! He was crossing Kettle Harbor Drive from the vacant lot just north of me going towards my neighbor's front yard across the street.  
I stopped.  He didn't.
Later that day, I got these fabulous photos emailed to me by my bud Jim Luscombe. Surprise! It was the same bobcat on the road between the bridges, as Jim said, "A block from your place!"
Nice to see a handsome bobcat around and about.

Meryl Schaffer
PIE Webmistress

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Beach Renourishment Project Update

Stump Pass 10 Year Beach and Inlet Management Plan
Project Manager:Mopps, Chuck (
Last Updated:03/19/2015 7:54 AM
This project provides for continued monitoring, as required by permitting, for dredging Stump Pass that re-established the 1980 channel alignment and provided for re-nourishment of critically eroded beaches. Maintenance dredging of Stump Pass and beach re-nourishment will be conducted approximately every three years.
An engineered structure will be installed at Stump Pass to improve program performance. In the permitting process, an Adaptive Management Plan Strategy will be employed to provide options for modifications to structure(s) placed with initial construction or installation of additional structures in the future in response to beach and inlet management activities and storm erosion impacts.
After reviewing the proposed alternatives, the Florida Park Service prefers a rock terminal groin sited as far south as practicable. Coastal Engineering Consultants (CEC) completed a project modeling study to determine how far south it can be placed to minimize impacts. The results were provided to the State agencies responsible for review and comment.
The result of this modeling showed that reducing the height of the structure by 1.5 feet did not affect the performance and decreased any negative impacts downstream of the structure. However, the State Park Service did not choose this as their desired configuration. They asked for a design that would increase the amount of sand placement upstream of the structure, but the modeling showed that this would be more costly and could have negative impacts on the down drift beaches and the pass itself.
CEC submitted draft t-groin plans to FDEP in response to a Request for Additional Information (RAI.) The FDEP issued a second RAI to which the CEC and County staff have prepared a response including: minor drawing edits, minor changes to the biological monitoring program, formal public noticing, erosion control line process for sand placement, and terminal groin installation on the Stump Pass Beach State Park.
Coordination with ACOE is ongoing; the ACOE engineering division will begin their technical review of the terminal groin design. Coastal Engineering Consultants expects this review to go smoothly.
The ACOE submitted permit documents to the State Historic Preservation Office for their review of potential impacts to historical and cultural resources. It is noted that the consulting team included a marine archaeologist who assisted with the design elements to avoid such impacts.
The US Fish and Wildlife Service is actively working on a new Biological Opinion (BO) for this Project. It is noted that the Red Knot was recently listed on the threatened and endangered species list, thus a new BO will have to review the project for migratory birds including Piping Plover and Red Knot as well as sea turtles.
The County is actively working to renew the original project easements, specific to beach front property owners, for temporary construction and related access needs. Further, the County is seeking additional temporary construction easements from beachfront property owners outside of the original project limits from the State Park Beach to the County Park Beach on Manasota Key.
The 2015 scope of services has been approved to continue the program.
Projected Permitting Schedule:
May 2014 - June 2015: Permit processing with FDEP & USACE
June 2015: FDEP permit
July 2015: USACE Permit
Design & Permitting:04/16/2012 - July 201570%
Procurement Process:August 2015 - October 20150%
Construction:November 2015 - TBD


Design:Coastal Engineering Consultants
An application to utilize Restore Act funds will be submitted when Restor Act funds become available.
Please note that project designs, budgets and timelines are estimates only and are subject to change.

Gopher Tortoise Violation on the Island

FWC: Watch out for gopher tortoises ... and their homes
   — The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission reported it recently issued a citation against a man who ruined two gopher tortoise burrows on Palm Island.
   The FWC release, which does not name the alleged perpetrator, states: “It appears that the suspect used the lot with the gopher tortoise burrows in order to access the lot he was trying to clear. In the process, he ran over two clearly-marked burrows with a tractor several times. The suspect was given a notice to appear in court with a misdemeanor citation.”
   The breeding season for the tortoises began this month. It is illegal to kill, harass or destroy gopher tortoises, their burrows or their eggs.
   The species, which are found in all 67 Florida counties, create burrows that are about seven feet deep and about 15 feet long, though some burrows can be more than 40 feet long, according to the FWC. Since the reptiles’ burrows are shared with other animals, the gopher tortoise is considered a “keystone species” — an animal that plays a unique and crucial role in the way an ecosystem functions.
   The burrow openings are half-moon shaped — with the curve at the top — and usually just big enough for a gopher tortoise to fit through (adult gopher tortoises typically are almost a foot long and weigh just less than 10 pounds). The tortoises prefer to live in high, dry, sandy places.
   Anyone who suspects illegal activity concerning the tortoises can anonymously call FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline any time at 888-404-3922.