With help from FEMA, the city readies for boaters, fishermen
The Sunrise City of Fort Pierce boasts world-class inshore and offshore fishing, beachfront parks, free public boat ramps plus marinas and boatyards, which can accommodate skiffs to luxury yachts. Since Hurricanes Fran and Jeanne inflicted extensive damage in 2004, public and commercial marine facilities have been upgrading and rebuilding.
Fort Pierce City Marina, which lost all its exterior docks and suffered $2.5 million dollars in damage to the 137 interior basin slips, is gearing up for a two-phase, $28 million dollar major renovation, according to Marina Manager Dean Kubitschek.
“We are planning the greenest project for a marina in Florida,” said Kubitschek. “We feel we’re going to be successful for marinas and the environment to co-exist.”
The Hazard Mitigation Project, which will reduce the present four-knot current down to one-half knot, includes one large and 12 small barrier islands to be constructed with virgin materials, “to create a habitat in natural conditions,” between the marina and the Intracoastal Waterway. Mangroves and native grasses will be planted along the island shorelines to create shade for fish and shelter for birds.
According to Ed Seissiger, Project Coordinator for the City, ninety thousand tons of rock, each piece weighing between 4,500 to 9,000 pounds and four- to six-feet in diameter, will be barged to the sites.
“Think of it as one dump truck every ten minutes, six days a week, eight hours a day for eight months,” Seissiger said.
This State of Florida Storm Water Protection Pilot Project for the marina and downtown waterfront is scheduled to be completed by late 2014. The Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, is paying the majority of the expenses with State taxpayers picking up ten percent of the tab.
Harbor Town Marina has a direct view of Fort Pierce Inlet, a major gateway to and from the Bahamas. Under new ownership since spring, 2011, the marina is undergoing a fresh look with new amenities. More than $1 million has been invested in a new fitness room, an upgraded lounge and the fastest Internet service available. Not to mention replacing docks and finger piers, new fuel pumps, a paved parking lot and the boats-on-trailer storage yard is being leveled and topped with fresh sod. “It is encouraging and uplifting to watch things get done,” said Audrey Willmot, Operations Manager. A new 150-ton lift, which handles boats up to 30 feet wide is in place in addition to their 50-ton lift, which was refurbished.
Ground has been broken and fences moved to make room for a guardhouse and 24-hour surveillance cameras and there are plans to renovate the bathrooms, locker room and shower facilities. Sitting on 30 acres of land, Harbor Town Marina is home to Whiticar Boat Works North, Sunnyland Canvas and a DIY yard.
“A lot more people are excited and seem to be enjoying themselves on and near the water,” Willmot said.”
Taylor Creek Marina and Anchors Aweigh Marine cater to smaller boats, offering in- and out-of-water covered boatshed storage services and are authorized to repair several makes of outboard engines. The 2004 Hurricanes caused more than $2 million dollars in damage and most repairs were complete within a year. Charles Shoup, owner, said he continues to maintain the marina and takes great pride in his “same level of service in these down times.”
Offering a marine-style concierge service, boats are filled with non-ethanol gas and the icebox is loaded when a customer calls to have his boat put in the water.
“We have two full-time forklifts, so there is no waiting,” said Shoup. “We have capacity to store 600 boats and there is always room for one more.”
Shoup describes Fort Pierce “an undiscovered paradise,” with its Bahamian-style clear blue water and ‘un-crowded’ inshore and offshore fishing. It is home to the Smithsonian Institution Research Center, the Manatee Observation and Education Center and Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute and a 1,200-seat theatre, which serves as a regional performing arts center and its popular Saturday morning Farmers Market.
“Fort Pierce is a great place for people to get back on the water,” said Shoup.