By Suzy Kridner
NEW SMYRNA BEACH - It's been a long journey, but now visitors to two of the city's beachfront parks are finally seeing the results of years of "considerable debate and dialogue."
City Manager Pam Brangaccio said Friday's groundbreaking at Esther Street Beachfront Park and the ribbon-cutting for the completed Flagler Avenue Boardwalk Park has meant years of planning, consulting with residents and surveys.
"It's been on the burner for 10 years to bring it to a successful conclusion," she said about the Flagler Avenue park.
"We have 23,000 residents and 23,000 opinions" on how the improvements should be made.
Friday's event begins at 8:30 a.m. Aug. 3, at the Esther Street Park with a groundbreaking for parking for 45 vehicles, a playground, walking trails, pavilions, restroom facilities and a volleyball area. The sea wall reconstruction and dune walkover have already been completed so they wouldn't interfere with turtle nesting season.
The group will then move to the Flagler Avenue Boardwalk Park for a ribbon-cutting for the $1.3 million in improvements there.
At Esther Street, drainage improvements for the beachfront site will reduce flooding in the North Atlantic Avenue area and include milling and resurfacing of the roadway along North Atlantic Avenue from Flagler Avenue to Crawford Street.
A $250,000 stormwater grant has been received to alleviate the Esther Street flooding problem on North Atlantic Avenue.
"There's a wet/dry area at Esther Street Park that when dry, will be a volleyball court," Ms. Brangaccio said.
Sea walls at both parks were damaged in the hurricanes of 2004 and the storms of 2007. Although repairs were made, "they have never been reconstructed," said Ms. Brangaccio.
The projected cost of the final phases of construction is estimated at $1 million and is funded jointly by the county and the city of New Smyrna Beach through its Community Redevelopment Agency.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the city's general fund also are contributing to the overall cost of the project, said Tony Otte, the city's Community Redevelopment Agency director. The project should be completed in January.
The bulk of the cost is for stormwater improvements, the city manager said.
Her only regret, she said, is not being able to pave the parking area at the Flagler Avenue Park, but stormwater treatment needed there is so expensive.
Even with an unpaved lot, the Flagler Avenue park is very popular.
"There are wonderful people there every day. It is their beach," she said.
Now they have a new boardwalk, new restrooms in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, an open area with showers, steps to the beach and a large plaza with picnic tables.
A poll was taken in 2010 to determine how much of the Flagler Boardwalk structure to remove without eliminating too much of the old shade structure.
"That this project is completed is a miracle," said Ms. Brangaccio.
Some residents claimed the Boardwalk structure was historic, but "it was less than 20 years old."
"That was a huge point of community dialogue, discussion and angst," she said.
The city requested bids and sold the boardwalk's gazebo portion to the developers of the Hampton Inn on Flagler Avenue for $500. The proprietors plan to restore it and use it in the hotel's courtyard.
Esther Street Park was purchased about five years ago through a state land acquisition program, Ms. Brangaccio said.
The city recently awarded a bid for the restrooms, additional sidewalks, a playground and parking improvements.
There's always a need for more parking, both on the beachside and the mainland.
Ms. Brangaccio said the city is seeking residents for a task force to study parking on the beachside and in other areas of the city.
The deadline to submit applications to serve on the taskforce is Aug. 8. Information and applications are available from www.cityofnsb.com.