Marco Island beachgoers will be enjoying newly renovated and upgraded beach access points from a project being worked on by the city’s Beautification Advisory Committee.
Marco Island City Council asked the committee earlier this year to address the appearance of the island’s two public beach access corridors along with finding ways to accommodate the increasing number of visitors while taking the opportunity to increase education and awareness on the area’s unique ecosystem.
“This is going to be a win-win project because a lot of times our committee comes up with an idea and it’s not necessarily coming from the city council’s request,” Sherri Connelly, chair of the Beautification Advisory Committee, said. “This is going to be a blend because it’s something that they saw a great need for and now we’re just facilitators of it.”
On Monday the committee presented to council what they want for the project’s finished product. These upgrades include new landscape, more bicycle parking, improved lighting and increased information on signage.
Although the committee is handling the project, other local organizations will take part to beautify the corridors. The Naples Botanical Garden will help to identify the best plants for the area, as they recently signed a memorandum of understanding with the city to assist with landscaping projects.
“[The botanical gardens] came to our meeting and said that they would be very interested in working with us to plant the right kind of native plants for the area based on the lighting, the soil and the water requirements,” Connelly said.
Local art is another primary aspect of the project, with plans for the bare, concrete walls to soon be covered in murals. Students of the welding technology program at Lorenzo Walker will build bike racks that are ideally uniquely designed also by local artists.
“We are always in favor of using our local vendors and artists and it’s very important to support the local people, but I don’t know how [council] is going to approach the murals,” Connelly said.
This project will be confronting how the two access points do not provide lighting for late-night walks to and from the beach. If low-lying light is installed, visitors may feel more secure and the dune system on the beach ensures that sea turtles won’t be disturbed by nesting.
“People will come off the beach at sunset or people walk the beach at night, you have to have that illuminated for safety,” Connelly said. “We’re concerned about not only the value of the look of it, but we also want to keep it safe for people.”
Marco Island Councilor Becky Irwin is a previous member of the Beautification Advisory Committee and is in full support of the project. To her, one of the most important aspects is utilizing signage to inform visitors on what they can expect to see on the island’s beaches.
“We really want to improve the information that we provide on the signs, not what you can’t do but what you’re about to experience,” Irwin said. “In addition to being unique to Florida, [Marco Island] is unique to the world in a lot of ways.”
The committee would like to add signs not only about local wildlife, but what can be found around all of Marco Island along with proper beach etiquette and what needs to be done to keep sea turtles and resting birds safe.
At last Monday’s city council meeting, Irwin mentioned a recent citizen survey that showed many residents feel a lack of beach access. She directed the city staff to look into an opportunity to add another corridor between the private Residents’ Beach and the county owned Tigertail Beach for people to walk or bike to.
The beautification committee is now focused on finding designers, architects and putting together an official proposal for the city council to approve funding. This project will hopefully encourage both full-time residents and newcomers on Marco Island to respect the beaches.
“I think the nicer you keep something and the more pleasing it is to the eye, and people walk over that bridge to get to the beach and they see that phenomenal view, it kind of just encourages people to do the right thing,” Connelly said.